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Pineapple is native to Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay of South America, a tropical perennial herb with multiple fruit. It is the only common food plant in the Bromeliaceae. It is cultivated commercially in the tropics and parts of the subtropics of the world, with Hawaii producing one-third of the world’s crop. Pineapple from A. comosus var. ananassoides was domesticated by the Tupi-Guarani Indians and accompanied them in their northward migrations to the Antilles, northern Andes and central America before the arrival of the Spanish. Unlike other edible plants from the new world, the pineapple discovered by Europeans in 1493 was quickly accepted by the Europeans. Following the discovery of pineapple, it was soon to be found in various foreign countries either by accident or by intent to introduce the species to a new land and is now grown in various parts of the world, including Australia . Spaniards introduced the pineapple into the Philippines and may have taken it to Hawaii and Guam early in the16th Centur. Portuguese traders are said to have taken seeds to India from the Moluccas in 1548, and they also introduced the pineapple to the east and west coasts of Africa . The plant was growing in China in 1594 and in South Africa about 1655. It reached Europe in 1650 and fruits were being produced in Holland in 1686.


Pineapple is cultivated predominantly for its fruit that is consumed fresh or as canned fruit and juice. Pineapple is the only source of bromelain, a complex proteolytic enzyme used in the pharmaceutical market and as a meat-tenderising agent. The stems and leaves of pineapple plant are also a source of fibre that is white, creamy and lustrous as silk. Pineapple fibre has been processed into paper with remarkable qualities of thinness, smoothness and pliability. Parts of the plant are used for silage and hay for cattle feed. Processing wastes in the form of shell, core materials and centrifuged solids from juice production are also used as animal feed. Alcoholic beverages can also be made from juice.

Name and botany

Pineapple belongs to the order Bromeliales, family Bromeliaceae, sub-family Bromelioideae. The Bromeliaceae have adapted to a very wide range of habitats. The Bromeliaceae are divided into three subfamilies, the Pitcarnioideae, the Tillandsioideae and the Bromelioideae. They are monocots but different from other monocots by several unique characters.

Pineapple is the most important economic plant in the Bromeliaceae . From the first observation of the pineapple by European explorers to the present time, pineapple taxonomy has varied considerably. The first botanical description of cultivated pineapple was by Charles Plumier at the end of the 17 th century when he created the genus Bromelia for the plants called karatas, in honour of the Swedish physician Olaf Bromel and also described Ananas as Ananas aculeatus fructu ovato , carne albida . Linnaeus in 1753 in his Species Plantarum designated the pineapple as Bromelia ananas and Bromelia comosa.

The present classification is as follows:

– Ananas comosus var. ananassoides (formerly two species: A. ananassoides and A. nanus );
– Ananas comosus var. bracteatus (formerly two species: A. bracteatus and A. fritzmuelleri)
– Ananas comosus var. comosus (formerly A. comosus)
– Ananas comosus var. erectifolius (formerly A. lucidus .(formerly A. erectifolius ))
– Ananas comosus var. parguazensis (formerly A. parguazensis)
– Ananas macrodontes (formerly Pseudananas sagenarius)

Common names

English: Pineapple
French: Ananas, Pain ade Sucre
German: Ananas
Portuguese (Brazil): Abacaxi, ananas, abacaxi-do-mato, ananas-selvagem, gravata
Spanish: anana, pina, pina de America, pina tropical
Indonesian: Nanas, Danas, Naneh
Malaysian: Nanas, Nanas Pager
Philippines: Apangdan (Bantok)
Thai: Sapparot
Vietnamese: Dua, Thom
Mandarin: Huangli
Tamil: Annaci palam
Laotian: Mahk nut
Khmer: Manoa
Burmese: Narnuthi

Botanical description

Domesticated pineapple (Ananas comosus (L.) Merrill is now botanically named as Ananas comosus var comosus). It is one of the most commercially important fruit crops which carry out Crassulacean acid metabolism, or CAM photosynthesis. It is grown mainly for fresh and canned fruit and juice and is the only source of bromelain, an enzyme used in pharmaceuticals and as meat-tenderising agent. Pineapple is not known to be allergenic but can be toxic to workers who cut pineapples. When unripe, pineapple is inedible and poisonous, and can irritate the throat, causes burning sensation on lips and mouth and act as a drastic purgative.

Plant: Pineapple is a perennial monocotyledonous plant having a terminal inflorescence and a terminal multiple fruit. Adult pineapple plants are up to 1 m high and 0.5 m wide while adult ‘Smooth Cayenne’ plants are up to 1.5 m high and 1 m wide.

Foliage: The long-pointed leaves are 50 – 180 cm in length, usually needle tipped and generally bearing sharp, up-curved spines on the margins. Some of the newer varieties and hybrids do not have spines. They may be all green or variously striped with red, yellow or ivory down the middle or near the margins. As the stem continues to grow, it acquires at its apex a compact tuft of stiff, short leaves called the crown or top. Occasionally a plant may bear 2 or more heads instead of the normal one head.

Flowers: At blooming time, the stem elongates and enlarges near the apex and puts forth an inflorescence of small purple or red flowers. The inflorescence consists of 50 – 200 individual hermaphrodite flowers with tubular corolla. The inflorescence consists of 100 to 200 flowers arranged in a compact spiral cluster. The flowers are perfect, with a floral bract, three short fleshy sepals and petals, six stamens, and an inferior ovary with three locules. The flowers are pollinated by humming-birds and these flowers usually develop small, hard seeds. Seeds are generally not found in commercially grown pineapple since the flowers are normally self-sterile and fruit development is parthenocarpic. Wind pollination is not known to occur, while humming birds, honeybees, bees (Trigona spp.) and ants have occasionally been observed visiting pineapple flowers, probably for the nectar and may play a secondary role in cross-pollination. However, sexual reproduction is rare in nature

Fruit: The pineapple, which is oval to cylindrical-shaped is a multiple fruit formed by the partial fusion of numerous fleshy segments from several separate flowers in which the hardened sepals form a continuous rind over the outside. The fruit is a terminal, cylindrical, compound structure at the apex of the stem and is formed by the fusion of the berrylike fruitlets that develop from the flowers. At its apex, the fruit bears a compressed, leafy shoot called a crown. The typically yellow fruit flesh is best eaten when sweet and moderately acid; it may contain from 10 to 18 percent sugar and from 0.5 to 1.6 percent titratable acidity. Commercial clones are self-sterile but cross easily with plants outside their varietal group. The fruit is normally seedless due to self incompatibility and the use of Triploid cultivars. It is both juicy and fleshy with the stem serving as the fibrous core. The tough, waxy rind may be dark green, yellow, orange-yellow or reddish when the fruit is ripe. The flesh ranges from nearly white to yellow. In size the fruits are up to 30 cm long and weigh 0.5 to 4.5 kg or more.

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About Distribution And Cultivars

Pineapple is widely grown in Asia (Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, China, and India), South Central America (Brazil, Costa Rica). Brazil is the world’s largest producer of pineapple, followed by Thailand, Phillipines, and Costa Rica. Although some claim that pineapples were brought to South Africa by Jan van Riebeeck in 1665, it is more widely accepted that they were introduced to Natal from Ceylon – present day Sri Lanka – in the early 19th century. A native to the tropics, the crop requires areas where the climate is warm, humid and free from extreme temperatures (25ºC being the optimal temperature). The fruit is grown all year round, although the sweetness of the fruit varies depending on various conditions. In South Africa , pineapples are grown mainly in the Eastern Cape and northern KwaZulu-Natal and, to a lesser extent, Limpopo .

While South Africa has a flourishing pineapple-growing sector, almost a third of the world’s pineapples are produced in Hawaii and South-East Asia. Commercial cultivars of pineapple are generally placed in five groups i.e. Cayenne, Queen, Spanish, Pernambuco and Mordilona. In international trade, the numerous pineapple cultivars are grouped into four main classes: ‘Smooth Cayenne’, ‘Red Spanish’, ‘Queen’, and ‘Abacaxi’, despite much variation in the types within each class.

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