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Starr 020630-0018 Ananas comosus.jpg
Binomial:Ananas comosus
Type:Tropical perennial
Light requirements:Full sun
Soil requirements:Acidic (pH 4.5 to 6.5), fast-drained

The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a tropical plant and fruit native to Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay. The plant is a short (1–1.5 m) herbaceous perennial with 30 or more trough-shaped and pointed leaves 30–100 cm long, surrounding a thick stem. The leaves of the Smooth Cayenne cultivar mostly lack spines except at the leaf tip, but the Spanish and Queen cultivars have large spines along the leaf margins. Pineapples are the only bromeliad fruit in widespread cultivation.

The name pineapple in English (or piña in Spanish) comes from the similarity of the fruit to a pine cone.

The word "pineapple", first recorded in 1398, was originally used to describe the reproductive organs of conifer trees (now termed pine cones). When European explorers discovered this tropical fruit, they called them "pineapples" (term first recorded in that sense in 1664) because they resembled pine cones. The term "pine cone" was first recorded in 1695 to replace the original meaning of "pineapple". [1]

In the binomial "ananas comosus", ananas comes the original (Peruvian) Tupi word for pineapple nanas, as recorded by André Thevenet in 1555 and comosus means "tufted" and refers to the stem of the fruit.


The fruitlets of a pineapple are arranged in two interlocking spirals, eight spirals in one direction, thirteen in the other; each being a Fibonacci number. This is one of many examples of Fibonacci numbers appearing in nature.

The natural (or most common) pollinator of the pineapple is the hummingbird. Pollination is required for seed formation; the presence of seeds negatively affects the quality of the fruit. In Hawaii, where pineapple is cultivated on an agricultural scale, importation of hummingbirds is prohibited for this reason.

At one time, most canned and fresh pineapples were produced on Smooth Cayenne plants. Since about 2000, the most common fresh pineapple fruit found in U.S. and European supermarkets is a low-acid hybrid that was developed in Hawaii in the early 1970s. Pineapple is commonly used in desserts and other types of fruit dishes, or served on its own. Fresh pineapple is often somewhat expensive as the tropical fruit is delicate and difficult to ship. It will not ripen once harvested, so must be harvested ripe and brought to the consumer without delay. Pineapple is therefore most widely available canned. The pineapple juice has been fermented into an alcoholic beverage commonly called pineapple wine which is a type of fruit wine, most commonly produced in Hawaii. Pineapples are also used as topping for American and European pizza, most commonly in the "Hawaiian" type pizza (where it is paired with ham or Canadian bacon).

Truly ripe pineapples are not found in the supermarket because almost all pineapple fruits are harvested at the mature-green stage of maturity. Fruit of the low-acid hybrid, usually containing "gold" in the brand name, are of good and consistent quality. Fruit of the best quality will have a fresh crown and little or no obvious shrinkage or wrinkling of the shell.

Dietary effects[edit]

Pineapple contains a proteolytic enzyme bromelain, which digests food by breaking down protein. Pineapple juice can thus be used as a marinade and tenderizer for meat. The enzymes in pineapples can interfere with the preparation of some foods, such as jelly or other gelatin-based desserts. There is significant evidence pointing to the anti-inflammatory benefits of bromelain. Some have claimed that pineapple has benefits for some intestinal disorders while others claim that it helps to induce childbirth when a baby is overdue. These enzymes can be hazardous to someone suffering from certain protein deficiencies or disorders, such as Ehlers-danlos. It can also be used in savory dishes to enhance digestion.

Pineapple is a good source of manganese, as well as containing significant amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamin D.

Cultivation history[edit]

A pineapple field in Veracruz, Mexico.

The pineapple spread from its original area through cultivation, and by the time of Christopher Columbus it grew throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean (West Indies). Columbus may have taken a sample back to Europe. The Spanish introduced it into the Philippines, Hawai'i (introduced in the early 19th century, first commercial plantation 1886) and Guam. The fruit was successfully cultivated in European hothouses beginning in 1720. Commonly cultivated varieties include Red Spanish, Hilo, Smooth Cayenne, St. Michael, Kona Sugarloaf, Natal Queen, and Pernambuco. Canned pineapple is almost always Smooth Cayenne.

In 1996, Del Monte began marketing its Gold Extra Sweet pineapple, known internally by the much more prosaic name MD-2. MD-2 is a hybrid that originated in the breeding program of the now-defunct Pineapple Research Institute in Hawaii, which conducted research on behalf of Del Monte, Maui Land and Pineapple, and Dole. Two similar seedlings, numbered 73-114 and 73-50, were found to have bright-gold, very sweet, low-acidity flesh, high resistance to parasites and internal rot, skin that turned amber when ripe and, best of all, the ability to survive cold storage for up to two weeks. Both versions were briefly marketed, but at the time, couldn't dent the Smooth Cayenne stranglehold on the Hawaiian industry.

The Pineapple Research Institute dissolved in 1987 and its assets were divided between Del Monte and Maui Land and Pineapple. Del Monte took 73-114, which it dubbed MD-2, to its plantations in Costa Rica, found it to be well-suited to growing there, and launched it publicly in 1996. (Del Monte also began marketing 73-50, dubbed CO-2, as Del Monte Gold.)

Southeast Asia dominates world production: in 2001 Thailand produced 1.979 million tons, the Philippines 1.618 million tons and Brazil 1.43 million tons. Total world production in 2001 was 14.220 million tons. The primary exporters of fresh pineapples in 2001 were Costa Rica, 322 000 tons, Côte d'Ivoire, 188 000 tons and the Philippines, 135 000 tons.

In commercial farming, flowering can be artificially induced and the early harvesting of the main fruit can encourage the development of a second crop of smaller fruits.

How to grow your own pineapple[edit]

The best soil for the pineapple is a friable, well-drained sandy loam with a high organic content. The pH should be within a range of 4.5 to 6.5. Soils that are not sufficiently acidic can be treated with sulfur to achieve the desired level. The plant cannot stand water-logging and if there is impervious subsoil, drainage needs to be improved.

The pineapples is a tropical or near-tropical plant. It will usually tolerate brief exposures to 28° F, but cold weather will adversely affect the quality of the fruit. So you want to be planting it where the temperature remains the warmest, such as a sunny portion of a garden or the south side of a home. They will grow as a potted plant, but will require enough light, and protection from the cold. Prolonged cold above freezing retards growth, delays maturity and causes the fruit to be more acidic. Pineapples are drought-tolerant and will produce fruit under yearly precipitation rates ranging from 25 - 150 in., depending on cultivar, location and degree of atmospheric humidity. For good fruit production, adequate soil moisture will be required.

Nitrogen is essential to increase fruit size and total yield, which should be added every four months. Spraying with a urea solution is another way to supply nitrogen. Fruit weight has also been increased by the addition of magnesium. Of the minor elements, iron is the most important, particularly in high pH soils. Iron may be supplied by foliar sprays of ferrous sulfate.

Pineapples are propagated by new vegetative growth. There are four general types: slips that arise from the stalk below the fruit, suckers that originate at the axils or leaves, crowns that grow from the top of the fruits, and ratoons that come out from the under-ground portions of the stems.

Although slips and suckers are preferred, crowns are the main planting material of home gardeners. These are obtained from store-bought fruit and are removed from the fruit by twisting the crown until it comes free. Although the crown may be quartered to produce four slips, in California's marginal conditions it is best not to cut or divide the crown. The bottom leaves are removed and the crown is left to dry for two days, then planted or started in water.

Pineapples are planted outside during the summer months. A ground cover of black plastic works very well for pineapples, both as protection from weeds and for the extra heat it seems to absorb. It also helps to conserve moisture. Traditionally, plants are spaced 12 inches apart. Set crowns about 2 inches deep; suckers and slips 3 to 4 inches deep.

Mealy bugs spread by ants can be a problem. Controlling the ants will control the mealy bugs. In most commercial growing areas, nematodes, mites and beetles can also be damaging, but these have not been a problem in California.

It is difficult to tell when the pineapple is ready to be harvested. Some people judge ripeness and quality by snapping a finger against the side of the fruit. A good, ripe fruit has a dull, solid sound. Immaturity and poor quality are indicated by a hollow thud. The fruit should be stored at 45° F or above, but should be stored for no longer than 4 - 6 weeks.

Fruiting can be forced when the plant is mature by using acetylene gas or a spray of calcium carbide solution (30 gms to 1 gal. water), which produces acetylene. Or calcium carbide (10 -12 grains) can be deposited in the crown of the plant to be dissolved by rain. A safer and more practical method for home growers is a foliar spray of a-naphthalene acetic acid (1 gm in 10 gal water) or B-hydroxyethyl hydrazine. The latter is more effective. The plants usually produce for about four years, but they may last longer in California since the life cycle is slowed down by cooler weather.


  • 'Hilo':

A compact 2-3 lb. Hawaiian variant of the Smooth Cayenne. The fruit is more cylindrical and produces many suckers but no slips.

  • 'Kona Sugarloaf':

5-6 lbs, white flesh with no woodiness in the center. Cylindrical in shape, it has a high sugar content but no acid. An incredibly delicious fruit.

  • 'Natal Queen':

2-3 lbs, golden yellow flesh, crisp texture and delicate mild flavor. Well adapted to fresh consumption. Keeps well after ripening. Leaves spiny.

  • 'Pernambuco' (Eleuthera):

2-4 lbs with pale yellow to white flesh. Sweet, melting and excellent for eating fresh. Poorly adapted for shipping. Leaves spiny.

  • 'Red Spanish':

2-4 lbs, pale yellow flesh with pleasant aroma; squarish in shape. Well adapted for shipping as fresh fruit to distant markets. Leaves spiny.

  • 'Smooth cayenne':

2.5–3 kg (5–6 lb), pale yellow to yellow flesh, cylindrical in shape, high sugar and acid content, well-adapted to canning and processing, leaves without spines. It is an ancient cultivar developed by Amerind peoples.[2] Until recently, this was the variety from Hawaii, and the most easily obtainable in US grocery stores, but has been replaced by 'MD-2'.[2] It is one of the ancestors of cultivars '73–114' (also called 'MD-2') and '73-50' (also called 'MD-1' and 'CO-2').[2]

Ethnomedical Uses[edit]

The root and fruit are either eaten or applied tropically as an anti-inflammatory and as a proteolytic agent.

A root decoction is used to treat diarrhea.

Diseases of pineapple[edit]

Pineapples are subject to a variety of diseases [1], the most serious of which is wilt disease vectored by mealybugs (Jahn et al. 2003). The mealybugs are generally found on the surface of pineapples, but can also be found inside the closed blossom cups (Jahn 1995). Other diseases include pink disease [2], bacterial heart rot, and anthracnose.

Other uses and trivia[edit]

  • The pineapple is an old symbol of hospitality and can often be seen in carved decorations (untufted pine cones are sometimes mistaken for pineapples).


External links and references[edit]

  1. Oxford English Dictionary entries for "pineapple" and "pine cone", 1971.
  2. a b c Duane P. Bartholomew (2009). "‘MD-2’ Pineapple Transforms the World’s Pineapple Fresh Fruit Export Industry". Pineapple News 16: 2–5. Retrieved 3 September 2014.