We call it "rampe" (rum-pay) in Sinhala. Apparently it's called Pandan in South East Asian cultures. A researcher at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand (working under one of Rural Returns' advisors, Dr. Sarath Ilangaltileke) isolated the component that makes Jasmine rice aromatic, et voila, it turned out to be the exact compound found in rampe leaves. Sri Lankans have added a length of rampe to our rice for centuries. Now we know why exactly we did it - to enhance the aroma, particularly of the varieties that were less aromatic than our wonderful heirloom varieties. Don't believe me? Look up Chandrasekaran, B. et al, "A Textbook of Rice Science," 2007, Scientific Publishers India, p.293, section 13.3.5.
After much searching I finally found the missing link that led me to the English name, screw-pine. Didn't think much of it, didn't think it had anything to do with pines, nor did anything screwy about it come to mind immediately.
Thank goodness for the Kandyan Home Garden, and that people including my parents still preserve some vestiges even in crowded Colombo. Well, I gave the punchline away at the start, but there it is. And yes, the lower leaves have been cut away for cooking.
Gosh I love Sri Lanka :-)
Oh, and I need to some day scan in the sequence of photos I shot of polos (tender jak fruit) being cooked on the tree (can't get fresher - or slower - than that) in my great aunt's mother of all home gardens in Aluvihare. Now that's two whole different stories right there.