Herbs & Plants

Thespesia populneoides

Botanical Name: Thespesia populneoides
Family: Malvaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Malvales
Genus: Thespesia
Species: T. populnea

*Abelmoschus acuminatus (Alef.) Müll.Berol
*Azanza acuminata Alef.
*Bupariti populnea (L.) Rothm.
*Hibiscus bacciferus Blume
*Hibiscus blumei Kuntze
*Hibiscus litoreus J.Presl

Common Names: Portia tree, Pacific rosewood, Indian tulip tree, or milo.

Habitat:Thespesia populneoides is probably native only to the Old World tropics. It was introduced to the Pacific Islands from Island Southeast Asia by prehistoric Austronesian voyagers. It is a tree found commonly in villages of Tamil Nadu and on coasts around the world.IIt grows in areas that receive 500–1,600 mm (20–63 in) of annual rainfall. The Portia tree is able to grow in the wide range of soil types that may be present in coastal environments, including soils derived from quartz (sand), limestone, and basalt; it favours neutral soils (pH of 6–7.4).[9] Pollen grains are approximately 70 microns in diameter.

The Portia tree is an evergreen bushy tree. It grows to 40 ft or more with a spread of 10–20 ft. It has heart-shaped leaves and cup-shaped yellow flowers that are produced intermittently throughout the year in warm climates. Each flower has a maroon eye that ages to purple. The flowers are followed by apple-shaped fruit.


Portia tree is a plant of the moist to wet, lowland tropics and warm subtropics, where it is found at elevations up to 150 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 – 30°c, but can tolerate 10 – 35°c. The plant can survive temperatures down to about 4°c and the occasional very light frost. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 – 3,000mm, but tolerates 800 – 5,000mm. Prefers a moisture-retentive but well-drained soil and a position in full sun. It also succeeds in dry locations and is highly tolerant of saline conditions. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 – 8, tolerating 6 – 8.5. Established plants are very drought resistant and can tolerate a dry season of up to 8 months. Tolerant of occasional, short-lived inundation. Plants are very wind-tolerant, withstanding even salt-laden winds. The plant produces its seeds in a waterproof capsule that can float for a considerable time in salt water without losing viability. Thus it has managed to spread to the coasts of most areas of the tropics. It has the potential to become a weed in new areas, so should not be introduced to areas outside its current range. This species is often eradicated when found growing in cotton-producing areas, since it harbours the cotton-stainer beetle (Dysdercus spp.) which is a pest of the cotton plant. Growth in height is rapid in the first few years, averaging 50 – 150cm per year, but it slows down when the tree is 7 – 10 years old. Stem diameter growth is 1 – 3cm per year. Flowering can begin when the tree is only 1 – 2 years old. In equatorial climates the plant will often flower all year round.

Ediible Uses: Young leaves are eaten – raw or cooked as a vegetable, they can also be boiled or added to soups. Flowers and flower buds – raw or cooked. Fruits – preserved and eaten. The unripe fruits are eaten raw, boiled or fried as a vegetable.

Medicinal uses:
This species is doubtfully distinct from Thespesia populnea, and so should have the same uses as detailed below:- Portia tree is often used in traditional medicine, where the bark, root, leaves, flowers and fruits are all used to treat a range of ailments. There has been some research into its properties, which tends to support these traditional uses. The heartwood contains several sesquiterpenoid quinones, including mansonone D and H, thespone and thespesone, which are known to induce contact dermatitis, to inhibit tumour formation and to have antifungal properties. The heartwood and other plant parts contain gossypol. The fruits and leaves contain compounds with antibacterial activity, whereas methanolic extracts of the flower buds have shown antifungal activity. Ethanol extracts of the flower have shown antihepatotoxic activity. Aqueous extracts of the fruit have shown wound-healing activity in rats after topical or oral administration. The seed oil has anti-amoebic activity. The heartwood is carminative. It is useful in treating pleurisy, cholera, colic and high fevers. The fruit juice is used to treat herpes. The crushed fruit is used in a treatment for urinary tract problems and abdominal swellings. The cooked fruit, crushed in coconut oil, provides a salve, which, if applied to the hair, will kill lice. An extract of the fruit is applied to swollen testicles. A leaf tea is taken as a treatment for rheumatism and urinary retention. A decoction of the leaves is used in treating coughs, influenza, headache and relapses in illnesses. The leaf sap, and decoctions of most parts of the plant, are used externally to treat various skin diseases. Juices from the pounded fruits, mixed with pounded leaves are used in a poultice to treat headaches and itches. A decoction of the bark and fruit is mixed with oil and used to treat scabies. A decoction of the astringent bark is used to treat dysentery and haemorrhoids, and a maceration of it is drunk for colds. A cold infusion of the bark is used in treating dysentery, diabetes, gonorrhoea, yellow urine, and thrush. Indigestion, pelvic infection, dysmenorrhoea, infertility, secondary amenorrhoea, appetite loss, ulcers and worms are also treated with the bark. The inner bark is used to treat constipation and typhoid. The stem is employed in treating breast cancer. Other extracts of the plant have significant antimalarial activity. Leaf and bark decoctions are taken as a remedy for high blood pressure. Seeds are purgative

Leaves are applied to inflamed and swollen joints (South India) When cut, the young fruit secretes a yellow sticky sap used to treat ringworm and other skin diseases (South India) Roots are used as a tonic. There is some modern investigation of the plant’s effects on high blood pressure.

Other Uses:
This species is doubtfully distinct from Thespesia populnea, and so should have the same uses as detailed below:- The tough, fibrous bark yields a strong fibre used for cordage, fishing lines, coffee bags and for caulking boats An oil is obtained from the seed. It can be used in lamps. The wood, soaked in water, yields a solution that is used in Asia to dye wool deep brown. The fruit and flowers yield a water-soluble yellowish dye. A black dye can be obtained from the leaves. The bark is a source of tannins. A gum is obtained from the fruit and flowers. A thick gum, which is not soluble in water, is obtained from the bark. The leaves are used for wrapping food. The heartwood is reddish brown to dark brown or black, often with purple veining; it is sharply demarcated from the 1 – 2cm wide band of white to pale yellow or pale pink sapwood that darkens upon exposure. The wood is fine-grained; medium to fine-textured; it shows slight ribbon figure on quartersawn faces. Freshly cut wood has a rose-like smell. The wood is strong, hard, light to medium in weight; very durable, even when in contact with water or the ground, and resistant to insect attack. It seasons well, and does not warp or check; shrinkage upon seasoning is very low to low. The wood is easy to saw and work, despite its wavy grain; it turns well in both green and dry conditions; can be finished to an attractive polish; paints well; gluing properties are poor to medium. The wood contains an oil which slows down drying of varnishes. A very handsome and valuable wood, looking somewhat like chocolate and vanilla swirled togethe, it is used for a wide range of purposes where quality is more important than size, including traditional bowls, artefacts, gunstocks, jewellery, furniture, plates and utensils, horse-drawn carts and wheelbarrows, to carve canoe paddles. It is also used for light construction, flooring moulds, musical instruments, utensils and vehicle bodies. Since it is very durable under water, it is popular for boat building. The wood is used for fuel.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.