The pandani tree is the world’s largest heath plant; it can grow up to 12 metres tall. Richea pandanifolia was first described by the botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker in 1844, occurring in “mountainous situations” in the south-west of Tasmania. Hooker was one of Charles Darwin’s best mates. He was 40 when he married Frances Harriet Henslow. They had seven children.
Pandani are common around Cradle Mountain and Mount Field (the latter pictured here), and although they have been found on the west coast in rainforest conditions close to sea-level, they much prefer higher altitudes. It is endemic to the island. Somewhat palm-like in appearance, the pandani has long, serrated leaves which are retained by the plant for insulation. These dead leaves can be used to light a fire in wet conditions, although only in an emergency situation, for the foliage of Richea pandanifolia is a habitat for some unique insects.
Richea pandanifolia bears beautiful pink flowers in the summer.
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