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Abundant Future: Cultivating Diversity in Garden, Farm, and Field


Pandanus tectorius 'Jorum'

Pandanus tectorius 'Jorum'

The Pandanus plant is currently the theme of my artwork. Members of this genus occupy a wide range of habitats in tropical and subtropical zone. They are dioecious, with male and female flowers produced on different plants. Japanese Botanical Gardens and their botanists give me pieces of living specimen from their glass houses that enable me to observe fragile parts in perfect condition. Plants are also collected by visiting their habitat with the help of local botanists. Then the fruits are exported with a certificate, and double checked by plant quarantine before I took them home. In tropical jungles, I have witnessed the closely connected relationship between plants and humans, and it led me to wonder how an artist may be able to assist in nature conservation.

For instance, I would like to introduce the story behind the edible cultivars in the Micronesian atoll. Mwoakilloa Atoll is a peaceful place characterized with a year-round warm climate and protected by an inland sea. This atoll, home to around 100 people, has no telephones or internet, and communication with the outside takes place via radio transmission. The locals are extremely self-sufficient, growing their own coconuts, breadfruit, bananas and taro as staples. Pandanus tectorius is also an important food, although it is not generally eaten outside of the Atoll. They have an outer hard part, and an inner soft fibrous part that is chewed, sucked, and eaten. It contains high levels of carotenoids and vitamins, and provides further health benefits and enjoyment. Pandanus leaves are used to make roofs, mats and baskets, while dried fruit is used for fuel and toothbrushes. It has traditionally been planted along the seashore with the dual purpose of nourishment and preventing soil erosion.

In Mwoakilloa, there are 23 fruits documented as cultivars of pandanus. Remarkably, many locals are able to instantly spot the differences in similar-looking cultivars and identify where they are growing in the jungle. Occasionally, seeds wash up on this Atoll from other islands and grow into male trees, but the fruit from these seedlings is not edible. Therefore, the focus is on increasing the number of female tree cuttings. They have been cared for traditionally and produce a large, sweet, good-quality fruits. The largest aggregated pandanus fruit I found was 45cm in diameter and weighed 17 kg. This cultivar was named after local residents. The P.tectorius itself is not a rare species, but its usage for human consumption outside of the Atoll is limited. Therefore, I believe we can discover unique values in the abundant range of cultivars that serve as evidence of uninterrupted cultural practice.

However, recent years have seen a rise in concern regarding people leaving the atoll and a loss of traditional culture due to modernization of lifestyles. The cultivation of pandanus is also feeling the effects. The inhabitants of Mwoakilloa do not have a strong ability to disseminate information to the world, and I learned that they wanted to record their disappearing culture.

I would like to mention that botanical art can go beyond mere descriptions of plants to a medium that gives the viewer pleasure and sometimes serves to convey the environmental and cultural background to a plant. Also, I believe an illustration can strongly express the thrill that the artist experienced in the process of the illustration’s making. I wish my works could be a record of the fascinating cultivars that are gradually disappearing, and may assist to spread awareness of the culture that brought such cultivars into existence.


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Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual

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Pandanus tectorius 'Jorum'

Pandanus tectorius 'Jorum'

Watercolor on vellum

28 5/32 x 23 15/32 inches

©2018 Mariko Ikeda

2024 ASBA - All rights reserved

All artwork copyrighted by the artist. Copying, saving, reposting, or republishing of artwork prohibited without express permission of the artist.

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