Bōb (Pandanus tectorius - Pandanaceae) cultivated edible fruit varieties
Edwaan wild varieties
Wūnamaan thatch varieties

Liok tutbok (Proverb)
"Pandanus roots grab deep through sand to hold firmly"

Bōb Food Value

Description: Pandanus is a wide-branched tree that grows up to heights of about 8 m (25 ft). The trunk has aerial prop roots and long leaves up to 3 m (10 ft) in length with serrated margins (thorny leaf edges). The large edible fruit of bōb is an aggregate of many angular, wedge-shaped sections or "keys" that turn orange as they mature. This very important wild growing and cultivated tree is sometimes referred to as the "screwpine," because of the twisted form in which the leaves are produced at the end of the branches and the general resemblance of the many-sectioned fruit to a large pine cone.

Distribution: Although this species may be indigenous to the Marshall Islands, early Marshallese probably brought some important cultivated varieties of this very useful plant with them. Indeed, the first bōb tree is said to have grown on Madmad Island, Namdik. Over countless generations of cultivation, selection of preferred tree types for propagation has produced many varieties of bōb, including those with extremely large fruits. Although there are more than one hundred named varieties that have been recorded in the Marshall Islands, some of these may now be extinct(lost forever).

Uses: Bōb is one of only a few important edible species found in the atoll and reef island environment. It has been a very important plant in Marshallese society for thousands of years. People have been reproducing bōb by planting cuttings (asexual reproduction) for many generations.

Traditionally, many people made preserved bōb paste, called mokwan, or jāānkun, when the fruit was in season. They could eat this is times of famine and sailors could take it on long voyages. Recently people have become interested in making and selling mokwan, which would have health and economic benefits. You can read about more about making mokwan in Marshallese or English.

Besides serving as a food, the fibrous fruit helps clean the teeth, acting as a natural dental floss. The long leaves furnish fiber for mats, hats, baskets, and other items. In addition, leaves of ni (coconut palm) and wūnmaañ varieties of bōb are used to thatch traditional houses. In the past, canoe sails were plaited from the leaves.

In ancient times, men and women wore rolled-up Pandanus leaves in their pierced earlobes. For men the roll was 7-10 cm (3-4 in) in diameter, but it was smaller for women. Chamisso, a French artist and botanist, was among the first European visitors to come to the Marshall Islands in the early 19th century. He wrote that these rolled leaves worn in the earlobes sometimes were covered with a "delicate tortoise-shell lamina." According to Chamisso, a bunch of Pandanus leaves was tied around a ripening fruit as a symbol of possession to discourage anyone else from harvesting it. The tips of the aerial roots of Pandanus trees are used in traditional medicine.

Girls wearing Pandanus woven skirts.

Making thatch from Pandanus for a canoe house (photo by Julie Walsh Kroeker)

Bōb fruit

Woman pounding the maañ (Pandanus leaf) for weaving. (photo by Julie Walsh Kroeker)

Boys chewing the fruit. (Photo by Julie Walsh Kroeker)

Bōb Food Value

Main Plants


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