Selected Trees and Shrubs
Hibiscus elatus; Syn: Paritium elatum, Common name: Blue Mahoe, Cuban Bast, Mahoe
Description: The national tree of Jamaica; moderate-sized, broad-leaved forest tree, with attractive hibiscus-like flowers, and beautiful, distinctive wood; rapidly growing, attaining heights of 20 m (65 ft) or more; stem gray, erect, up to 45 cm in diameter (17 in); in plantations, trunk typically straight-growing, branching sparingly at upper levels; leaves large, hairy, dark green, alternate, heart-shaped to round, 13-18 cm across (5-7 in), on long leafstalks 6-10 cm (2.5-4 in); flowers medium-size and beautiful, 7.5-13 cm across (3-5 in), change color as they mature, going from bright yellow to orange-red and finally to crimson; fruit a capsule 3-4 cm long (1.2-1.6 in); seeds covered with velvety hairiness; flowering and fruiting year round; wood has distinctive blue-green streaks when polished, making it a highly desirable timber.
Plant Family: Belongs to the Malvaceae or Mallow family, which includes the attractive and well-known Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), Cocoa (Theobroma cacao), Okro (Abelmoschus esculentus) and cotton (Gossypium spp).
Natural Habitat: Will thrive in wide range of tropical and subtropical habitats – soil, temperature and rainfall; in wetter tropics will grow at elevations up to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft).
Origin and Distribution: Native to Cuba and Jamaica; naturalized variously in other tropics and subtropics; widely grown as ornamental or reforestation tree; in the Gardens, plot on northern side of 35-Steps; also planted for reforestation near Pont Casse, Dominica; propagation by seed and cuttings.
Uses: Beautiful, hard and durable timber, widely used for cabinets and decorative objects such as picture frames, bowls and carvings, wood is hard and elastic and used for railway sleepers, flooring and shingles; has musical quality and used to make cuatros, a type of lute; due to quick growth, tall, upright stem, and beautiful timber, tree often used in reforestation programs; and because of attractive leaves and flowers, is also used as specimen ornamental; inner bark fibres used for rope.
Indigenous Legends and Anecdotes: Common name Blue Mahoe derived from the Spanish word Majagua and the blue-green streaks of the polished wood.
Dan H. Nicolson. Flora of Dominica, Part 2: Dicotyledoneae. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 1991
Elbert L. Little Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen. Common Forest Trees of Hawaii. Agriculture Handbook No. 679, USDA Forest Service, 1989; Univ. of Hawaii reprint, 2003
H.F. Macmillan. Tropical Planting and Gardening. Macmillan, London 1956
Dorothy P. Storer. Familiar Trees and Cultivated Plants of Jamaica. Macmillan, London 1964
C.D. Adams. The Blue Mahoe & Other Bush : An Introduction to Plant Life in Jamaica. Singapore: McGraw-Hill Far Eastern Press 1971
C.D. Adams. Flowering Plants of Jamaica. University of the West Indies, Mona, Glasgow University Press 1972
Blue Mahoe. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, October 2009 (en.wikipedia.org)
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