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Thespesia lampas (Cav.) Dalzell & A. Gibson

Thespesia lampas (Cav.) Dalzell & A. Gibson




Hibiscus lampas Cay., Hibiscus cal­losus Blume, Azanza lampas (Cav.) Alefeld.

Vernacular Names


Kapas utan (Indonesian), kapasan, kemiren (Ja­vanese).


Marakapas (Tinggian), bu­lak-bulakan (Tagalog), kapas-kapas (Ilokano).


Pho paa (central), po ieo (Chiang Mai), khwaai kwaang (Chumphon).



Geographical Distributions

Thespesia lam­pas is found in tropical East Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Australia. In South and Southeast Asia, it occurs from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka through Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Indo-China, southern China and Indonesia to the Philippines and New Guinea, but it is not found growing wild in Peninsular Malaysia. T. lampas is widely grown in the tropics as an ornament, e.g. in India and Peninsular Malaysia.


Thespesia lampas is an erect, slightly branched shrub or small tree of 0.5-3 m height, densely hairy with minute stellate hairs and becomes hairless with age.

The leaves are arranged spirally. The petiole is 0.5-16 cm long with the blade measures 2-22 cm x 1-25 cm. There are 5-7 veins at the base. On the base of midrib be­neath is a linear nectary of 3-7 mm long. The lower leaves are large, orbicular, cordate at base, with deeply 3-5-lobed apex and with acuminate lobes, while the upper leaves are smaller, broadly ovate to oblong, often not lobed, thinly above and densely covered with stellate hairs below.

There are 1-5 solitary flowers. The pedicel is 10-35 mm long in solitary flowers, 4-8 mm in racemes and joint above the middle. The hypanthium is obconical and measures 2.5-6 mm x 5-7 mm. There are 4-6 epicalyx segments which are free, awl-shaped and caduceus. The sepal measures 7-9 mm x 7-9 mm which is cup-shaped, coriaceous and ends in 5 subtriangular lobes or teeth, which are 1-3 mm long. The petal is bell-shaped, and light yel­low with a dark red-purple at centre. There are 5 petals which are obo­vate, measuring 6-7 cm x 5-6 cm, with the lower part fleshy and con­nate. Stamens are numerous. The filaments are united in a staminal column that is up to 2 cm long, dentate at apex while the free part of filaments is 3 mm long and with anthers 1 mm long. The pistil is with 5-loculed ovary. The style is 18 mm long and un­branched. The stigma is 3 mm long and club-shaped.

The fruit is a spherical to ovoid capsule, measuring 2-3 cm x 2 cm, slightly pentagonous, stellately hairy, black and usu­ally dehisce with 5 valves. There are 8-14 seeds per locule. The glossy black seed is angular-obovoid, measuring 4-5 mm x 2.5 mm, smooth, covered with nipple-like protuberances and often with a ring of brown hairs around the hilum.

Ecology / Cultivation

Thespesia lampas is found in humid as well as seasonally dry regions with an average annual rainfall of 1500-1700 mm. It is a light-loving plant found in Imperata fields, teak forests or secondary forests. In Java, it occurs especially in relatively dry areas at altitudes up to 300 m. In the Philippines, it is found in open locations at low and medium al­titudes. In Laos, it grows spontaneously on alluvial soils near watercourses or ponds. It thrives on fer­tile clayey or loamy soils, but will grow on less favorable soils if sufficient moisture is available. In India, it is found at altitudes up to 1200 m.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.17: Fibre plants.

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