Selected Trees and Shrubs
Thespesia populnea; Syn.: Hibiscus populneus; Common name: Mahot LaMer, Portia Tree
Plant Family: Belongs to the Malvaceae or Hibiscus family, which includes the many varieties of the popular Hibiscus flower(Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), the edible Okra (Hibiscus esculentus), and Sea Island Cotton (Gossypium barbadense).
Description: Small, hardy, spreading, evergreen shrub or tree, up to 12 m tall (40 ft); leaves heart-shaped, shiny and alternate, blade up to 22 cm long (8 in) and 11 cm broad (4 in); flowers solitary and axillary, funnel-shaped and showy, 5-8 cm long (2-3 in) and up to 8 cm across (3 in), yellow becoming purple with age, with red or purple base inside petals; fruit depressed-globose, 3-4 cm broad (1.2-1.6 in), faintly 5-angled, with yellow sap; flowering and fruiting intermittently throughout year.
Natural Habitat: Tropical coastal regions on sandy or gravelly shores and at mangrove margins; especially suited to sea coasts; propagation by cuttings and seed; fruit and seed buoyant and adapted to long-distance dispersal by tides and ocean currents.
Origin and Distribution: Native of old World tropics; and now found in coastal regions throughout tropics and sub-tropics; naturalised in Florida and West Indies; in Dominica, found at Cabrits and Pointe Round.
Uses: As specimen ornamental, and in medians and parking lots; tough fibrous bark used for rope and caulk for boats; wood is oily and makes highly polished timber, but makes only small items since wood is often twisted and rarely found in large pieces; yellow dye obtained from fruit; medicinally, several plant parts used: ground up bark to treat skin diseases, dysentery and hemorrhoids; leaves applied to inflamed and swollen joints; sap of young fruit to treat ringworm and other skin diseases; roots for making a tonic; in Dominica, leaves soaked in Castor oil and applied to open ulcers; there is some modern investigation of the plant's effects on high blood pressure.
Indigenous Legends: Tahitians considered the tree sacred and grew it near places of worship.
H.F. Macmillan. Tropical Planting and Gardening. Macmillan, London 1956
Penelope N. Honeychurch. Caribbean Wild Plants and Their Uses. Macmillan, London, 1986
C.D. Adams. Flowering Plants of Jamaica. University of the West Indies, Mona, Glasgow University Press 1972
Robert A. DeFilipps. Useful Plants of the Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 1998
Dan H. Nicolson. Flora of Dominica, Part 2: Dicotyledoneae. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 1991
Arlington A. James. Cabrits Plants and Their Uses. Forestry and Wildlife Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Dominica 1986
Colleen Keena. Australian Native Hibiscus and Hibiscus-like Species. www.hibiscus.org, Brisbane Valley, Queensland, Australia 2000
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Trees, Shrubs, Birds:
Selected Trees and Shrubs
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