Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Thespesia populneoides (Roxb.) Kostel.

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
Click/tap on images to enlarge
Flower. © R.L. Barrett
Flower. © R.L. Barrett
Leaves and flower. © R.L. Barrett
Fruit. © R.L. Barrett
Habit. © R.L. Barrett
Bark. © R.L. Barrett
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Kosteletzky, V.F. (1836) Allgemeine Medizinisch-Pharmazeutische Flora 5: 1861.

Common name

Tulip Tree; Indian Tulip Tree; Portia Tree; Pacific Rosewood


Shrub or tree to 12 m.


Leaf blades truncate to shallowly cordate or cordate, about 5-17 x 4-14 cm. Midrib and usually four major and two minor lateral veins radiating from the point of attachment of the petiole. Twigs rather pithy and twig bark strong and fibrous when stripped.


Flowers large, solitary in the leaf axils, pedicels about 2.5-16 cm long. Epicalyx segments 3, falling very early in bud. Calyx +/- cupular with minute teeth, but spreading as the flower develops. Corolla large, about 6-7 cm long, mainly yellow (red towards the base) but turning pink or red throughout following anthesis. Stamens fused to form a central column, anthers horseshoe-shaped. Ovules 4 per locule.


Fruits depressed globular to broadly ovoid, about 25-45 mm diam. Fruit pedicels normally long and often hanging; outer fruit splitting into 5 segments, exposing inner fruit that is not dehiscent; seed with short clavate (club like) hairs.


Seed germination time 11 days. Cotyledons  transversely elliptic to broadly cuneate or obtriangular, about 17 x 29 mm, 5-veined, numerous dark red glands visible with a lens. At the tenth leaf stage: leaves cordate, apex acuminate, base truncate to shallowly cordate, leaf blade with a scattered reddish scales on the each surface; numerous oil glands visible with a lens; petiole, stem and terminal bud clothed in round or stellate reddish scales; stipules linear, about 2 mm long.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT, CYP and NEQ. Altitudinal range very small, at or slightly above sea level. Grows in beach forest, gallery forest (particularly on banks of tidal streams) and on beaches. Also occurs on Indian Ocean Islands, SE Asia and Malesia.


Hibiscus populneoides Roxb., Flora Indica; or descriptions of Indian Plants, by the late William Roxburgh Edn. 2, 3: 191-192 (1832), Lectotype: Wallich 1888.F.  Thespesia populnea var. populneoides (Roxb.) Pierre, Flora Forestiere de la Cochinchine 11: t. 173 (1888).  Thespesia populnea var. bynoeana Domin, Bibliotheca Botanica 22(89): 965 (1928), Type: "N.S. Wales: leg. BYNOE".

RFK Code


Copyright © CSIRO 2020, all rights reserved.