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Thespesia populnea (L.) Soland.ex Corrêa


Thespesia populnea (L.) Soland.ex Corrêa




Hibiscus bacciferus J.G.Forster, Hibiscus populneus L., Malvaviscus populneus (L) Gaertner.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Baru-baru (Peninsular), baru laut (Sabah), bebaru (Sarawak).
English Milo, Pacific rose-wood, portia tree, thespesia.
Indonesia Baru laut (General), warn laut (Javanese), warn lot (Sundanese).
Philippines Banalo (Tagalog).
Thailand Po kamat phrai (South-western).

Geographical Distributions

Thespesia populnea is pantropical along sea coasts, occasionally planted inland.


Thespesia populnea is an evergreen shrub or small or rarely medium-sized trees, which can reach up to 30 m tall. Its bole is short and twisted or longer, up to 60 cm in diametre and without buttresses. The bark surface is becoming rough and fissured in older trees, pale grey, very fibrous inner bark and pink. The crown is broad and dense.

The leaves are arranged alternate, simple, entire or palmately lobed, palmately veined and stipulate. The 5-merous flowers are axillary, solitary but often seemingly in a raceme by reduction of the upper leaves.

The epicalyx is with 3-6 free segments. Sepal is cupular and entire or minutely toothed. The petal is large and usually yellow with a dark purple centre.  The ovary is 5-or 10-locular with 3-many ovules per cell, 1 style and club-shaped stigma or rarely 5-lobed.

The fruit is a capsule and sometimes dehiscent. Seeds are (1-)2-many per cell, smooth to densely hairy. Seedling is with epigeal germination. The cotyledons are emergent and leafy. The hypocotyl is elongated with all leaves are arranged spirally.

Ecology / Cultivation

The species endemic to New Guinea are all found in lowland primary or secondary rain forest, up to 1000 m altitude. Thespesia populnea is scattered or rarely gregarious on sandy and rocky coasts, in beach forest (e.g. the Barringtonia formation), preferring light sandy soils.

Line Drawing / Photograph


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  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.5(3): Timber trees: Lesser-known Timbers.

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