When I saw these incredible prop roots during set-up week, I stopped dead in my tracks. What sort of plant could this be? I couldn’t find anyone who knew, so one of my fellow guides and I stopped Drew Becher, president of the PHS, to ask him.
Drew knew exactly the plant we meant and was very pleased about having it in the Show. In fact, he told us gleefully that he and designer Sam Lemheney had been on a shopping expedition at a Florida nursery and spotted it over in a corner. Ignoring the big royal palms the nurseryman wanted to sell them, they said, “we want that one.” It took Drew a couple minutes to pull the name off the tip of his tongue—don’t you hate it when that happens?—but he took the time to find it and get back to us.
Pandanus tectorius, also known as hala or thatch screwpine, is one of the few surviving native Hawaiian plants; evidence of the tree predates the arrival of the first Polynesian colonists. Its leaves were used to make sails for sea canoes and fiber for weaving (the craft of lauhala refers to weaving baskets, mats, and other objects from the leaves of the hala).
Pandanus is a “floater”—its seeds are buoyant and can tolerate salt water. No wonder it can be found on islands and atolls all over the South Pacific. Here at the Flower Show, you can find the Pandanus in Pele’s garden, near the Hale (thatched hut). There’s another, smaller specimen on the rear side of the Men’s Garden Club exhibit, near the Marketplace—illustrating that you should always look for hidden gems on all sides of the displays.
The Pele’s Garden Pandanus sheds its usual grey-green color when it becomes a canvas for the fabulous light show. You can find many items woven from the Pandanus in the Hawaii Village in the Grand Hall. Check the schedule on your Flower Show app for weaving demonstrations in the Village as well.