Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

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Thespesia populnea
(L.) Sol. ex Corrˆa, Malvaceae
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Present on Pacific Islands?  yes

Primarily a threat at high elevations?  no

Risk assessment results:  High risk; score: 9 (Hawaii-Pacific Weed Risk Assessment for Thespesia populnea)

Other Latin names:  Hibiscus populneoides Roxb.; Hibiscus populneus L.; Thespesia macrophylla Blume; Thespesia populneoides (Roxb.) Kostel.

Common name(s): [more details]

English: bendytree, corktree, Indian tuliptree, milo, milo, milo, Pacific rosewood, Pacific rosewood, porlia-tree, portia tree, portia-tree, seaside mahoe, Seychelles rosewood, tuliptree, umbrella-tree

Fijian: mulomulo

Hawaiian: milo

Niuean: milo

Pohnpeian: keleuand, pone

Unknown: 'amae, milo, milo, mi'o, miro, mulomulo

Habit:  shrub/tree

Description:  "Small tree 5 - 20 m tall; Lvs alternate, heart shaped, the blade 8 - 20 cm wide, green and glossy above and without dense white pubescence below; Fls pale yellow fading pinkish, with deep red spots at base of petals, calyx cuplike, flower including calyx 5.5 - l6.5 cm long; Frt a globose, woody, brown capsule 3 cm across." (A Guide to Pacific Wetland Plants, p. 91)

"Evergreen shrubby tree, commonly to 13 m (41 ft) tall, with young branches minutely brown and scaly. Leaves alternate, simple, with petioiles 5-10 cm (2-4 in) long; blades entire, heart shaped (poplar-like), shiny dark green above, 5-20 cm (2-8 in) long, with usually 4 main veins from base. Flowers showy, hibiscus-like, single at upper leaf axils, to 8 cm (3 in) across; corolla yellow with a red center, turning maroon by nightfall; stamens united into a column shorter than petals. Fruit a leathery, flattened-globose, 5-parted capsule, 4 cm (1.5 in) wide, yellow turning black, peristeing unopened for a time and bearing several brown hairy seeds. ¶NOTE: May be confused with. . .[Hibiscus tiliaceus], but its leaves wider, with dense star-shaped hairs on lower surfaces. . . ." (ID &Biology of Nonnative Plants in FL's Nat. Areas (2nd ed.), p. 91)

See also A Tropical Garden Flora, p. 393; Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, pp. 424-426; (Smithsonian).

Habitat/ecology:  "Where native, this shrub grows at the edges of mangrove swamps, along tidal waters, usually on sandy and rocky coasts. The shrub is resistant to salt spray and strong winds. The shrub's spreadin lower branches leads to dense and impenetrable thickets that affect wildlife and crowd out native vegetation. Sometimes it forms forests of seedlings at the high-tide line of beaches. It produces large fruit crops and seeds are dispersed by tides and ocean currents. The small seeds can withstand extended period of floating and easily germinate in sand." (Invasive Plants of the World (Weber, 2003), p. 432)

"Found in the coastal strand, and sometimes along rivers at the interface of the mangrove-coastal interface and exposed to tidal influence." (A Guide to Pacific Wetland Plants, p. 91)

"Naturalized in Florida shore hammocks and sand dunes by 1933 (Small 1933), with spreading lower branches making 'almost impenetrable thickets' and large fruit crops continuously increasing its dense growth. Noted as commonly naturalized in coastal areas of south Florida and the Keys (Watkins 1970, Nelson 1994). Now a common constituent of mangrove communities and low wave-action beaches (E. F. Austin, Florida Atlantic University, 1995 pers. comm.). Sometimes forms forests of seedlings at the high-tide line (Nellis 1994). Also weedy in cultivated landscapes (Brosochat and Meerow 1991). . . . ¶. . . Has taken over beaches used by nesting sea turtles on St. John, Virgin Islands (Austin 1993). In Florida, documented as invading shell mounds, coastal berms, coastal strands, maritime hammocks, pine rocklands, and ruderal communities." (ID &Biology of Nonnative Plants in FL's Nat. Areas (2nd ed.), p. 91)

"Life history: "Cold-sensitive, restricted to areas with minimum temperatures above 1.7°C (35°F) (Broschat and Meerow 1991). Resists salt spray and wind action (Rao et al. 1983). Grows 'luxuriantly on shores of bays and inlets' (Small 1933); able to thrive in low silty land and coral sand berms (Nellis 1994). Shifts into the more efficient C4-type of photosynthesis under saline conditions (Kotmire and Bhosale 1985). Flowers and fruits nearly year-round. Fruits and seeds buoyant, adapted to long-distance dispersal by tides and ocean currents (Nellis 1994)." (ID &Biology of Nonnative Plants in FL's Nat. Areas (2nd ed.), p. 91)

In Hawaii: "Milo [PIER ed.: Thespesia populnea] grows in low-lying protected coastal regions throughout the Islands. . . . Naturally adapted to heat, intense sunlight, and dryness. . . ." (A Tropical Garden Flora, p. 393)

In Fiji, "An often abundant tree 2-15 m. high, occurring at or near sea level along beaches and river banks, in coastal thickets, and on edges of mangrove swamps and of forest along rocky shores. . . . Flowers and fruits occur throughout the year." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 425)

Propagation:  "Sometimes it forms forests of seedlings at the high-tide line of beaches. It produces large fruit crops and seeds are dispersed by tides and ocean currents. The small seeds can withstand extended period of floating and easily germinate in sand." (Invasive Plants of the World (Weber, 2003), p. 432)

"Sometimes forms forests of seedlings" and noted as having "large fruit crops continuously increasing its dense growth" in Florida (where it is an introduced invasive species). (ID &Biology of Nonnative Plants in FL's Nat. Areas (2nd ed.), p. 91)

"It [PIER ed.: Thespesia populnea] is easily grown from seed." (A Tropical Garden Flora, p. 393)

Native range:  "Originating in India (Nelson 1996)" (ID &Biology of Nonnative Plants in FL's Nat. Areas (2nd ed.), p. 91)

Old World (Midway Atoll Vascular Plant Checklist, p. 57)

"Eastern Africa and southern Asia through Malesia to eastern Polynesia; Marshall and Gilbert Islands in Micronesia" (Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands, p. 58)

"A widespread coastal plant from tropical Africa to Henderson Island in easternmost Polynesia." (Sykes, 1970, p. 117)

"Pantropical and subtropical; cf. Fosberg and Sachet, 1972, for a list of many collections. About 30 Fijian collections are at hand, but the species is more abundant than this would suggest." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 426)

Presence:

Pacific
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Beqa Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . MBENGGA: Raviravi, DA 6072."
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Fiji Islands native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Pantropical and subtropical; cf. Fosberg and Sachet, 1972, for a list of many collections. About 30 Fijian collections are at hand, but the species is more abundant than this would suggest." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 426)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Fulanga Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . FULANGA: Bryan 446." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Kandavu Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . KANDAVU: Namalata isthmus region. Smith 180." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Koro Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . KORO: East coast, Smith 1092." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Lakemba Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . LAKEMBA: Near Tumbou Jetty, Garnock-Jones 798." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Matuku Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . MATUKU: Bryan 238." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Moala Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . MOALA: Bryart 310." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Ngau Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . NGAU: Shore of Herald Bay, vicinity of Sawaieke, Smith 7899." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Ovalau Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . OVALAlJ: Vicinity of Levuka, Gillespie 4504." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Taveuni Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . TAVEUNI: Seemann 27." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Vanua Levu Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . VANUA LEVU: Mathuata: Lambasa, Greenwood 526. Thakaundrove: Nasinu, Natewa Bay, DA 16834." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Vanua Mbalavu Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: . . . VANUA MBALAVU: Near Namalata Village, Garnock-Jones 1119." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
Fiji
Fiji Islands
Viti Levu Island native
Smith, Albert C. (1981) (p. 426)
"Representative collections: VITI LEVU: Mba: Shores of Mba River near its mouth, Smith 4742. Nandronga & Navosa: Vatukarasa, DA 9286 (McKee 2856). Serua: Vicinity of Ngaloa, Degener 15106. Namosi: Mouth of Nambukavesi Creek, DA 13751 (DF193, BolaSS). Ra: Ellington, Parks20854. Tailevu; Londoni, Valemine 10. Rewa: Nukulau Island, Barclay 3431." (Flora Vitiensis nova, vol 2, p. 246)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Hawai‘i (Big) Island native
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (year unknown)
"In the Hawaiian Islands, indigenous to Ni`ihau, Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Maui, Hawai`i." (Smithsonian) For specimens, see: Smithsonian Botany Collections
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Kaua‘i Island native
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (year unknown)
"In the Hawaiian Islands, indigenous to Ni`ihau, Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Maui, Hawai`i." (Smithsonian) For specimens, see: Smithsonian Botany Collections
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Lāna‘i Island native
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (year unknown)
"In the Hawaiian Islands, indigenous to Ni`ihau, Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Maui, Hawai`i." (Smithsonian) For specimens, see: Smithsonian Botany Collections
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Maui Island native
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (year unknown)
"In the Hawaiian Islands, indigenous to Ni`ihau, Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Maui, Hawai`i." (Smithsonian) For specimens, see: Smithsonian Botany Collections
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Moloka‘i Island native
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (year unknown)
"In the Hawaiian Islands, indigenous to Ni`ihau, Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Maui, Hawai`i." (Smithsonian) For specimens, see: Smithsonian Botany Collections
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Ni‘ihau Island native
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (year unknown)
"In the Hawaiian Islands, indigenous to Ni`ihau, Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Maui, Hawai`i." (Smithsonian) For specimens, see: Smithsonian Botany Collections
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
O‘ahu Island native
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (year unknown)
"In the Hawaiian Islands, indigenous to Ni`ihau, Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Lana`i, Maui, Hawai`i." (Smithsonian) For specimens, see: Smithsonian Botany Collections
Kiribati
Kiribati
Kiribati (Republic of) native
Permanent Agriculture Resources (2000) (p. 58)
"Eastern Africa and southern Asia through Malesia to eastern Polynesia; Marshall and Gilbert Islands in Micronesia" (Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands, p. 58)
Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands native
Permanent Agriculture Resources (2000) (p. 58)
"Eastern Africa and southern Asia through Malesia to eastern Polynesia; Marshall and Gilbert Islands in Micronesia" (Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands, p. 58)
Niue
Niue
Niue Island Sykes, W. R. (1970) (p. 117)
reference doesn't explicitly state that this species is native, but it seems from the range description included that it could be (pt@philipt.com/20171202). Vouchers cited: CHR 170315, CHR 170316, CHR 170317
Pacific
Pacific
Polynesia native
Permanent Agriculture Resources (2000) (p. 58)
"Eastern Africa and southern Asia through Malesia to eastern Polynesia; Marshall and Gilbert Islands in Micronesia" (Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands, p. 58)
Pitcairn Islands
Pitcairn Islands
Henderson Island   Sykes, W. R. (1970) (p. 117)
"A widespread coastal plant from tropical Africa to Henderson Island in easternmost Polynesia." (Sykes, 1970, p. 117)
Pitcairn Islands
Pitcairn Islands
Henderson Island introduced
Sherley, Greg (ed.) (2000) (p. 60)
reference implies that species is non-native; relevant text from ref: "Opportunities for island restoration . . . Henderson is described by Vickery (1994) as 'the world's only raised coral atoll that is virtually intact, and supports a suite of endemic plants and animals'. It has been designated a World Heritage Site. Pitcairn islanders visit Henderson to cut trees for carving, especially miro (Thespesia populnea). 'They are unlikely to agree to any conservation measures that do not provide them some benefits and thus, one key aspect of the management plan is the development of miro as a sustainable resource' (Vickery 1994)."
Pacific Rim
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Asia
Asia
Asia (southern) native
Permanent Agriculture Resources (2000) (p. 58)
"Eastern Africa and southern Asia through Malesia to eastern Polynesia; Marshall and Gilbert Islands in Micronesia" (Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands, p. 58)
Asia
Asia (Pacific rim)
Malesia native
Permanent Agriculture Resources (2000) (p. 58)
"Eastern Africa and southern Asia through Malesia to eastern Polynesia; Marshall and Gilbert Islands in Micronesia" (Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands, p. 58)
Also reported from
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Africa
Africa
Africa (eastern) native
Permanent Agriculture Resources (2000) (p. 58)
"Eastern Africa and southern Asia through Malesia to eastern Polynesia; Marshall and Gilbert Islands in Micronesia" (Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands, p. 58)
Caribbean Islands
Caribbean Islands
Caribbean Islands introduced
Weber, Ewald (2017) (p. 470)
"Naturalized (species has established populations)" in some areas
India
India
India (Republic of) native
Langeland, K. A./Cherry, H. M./McCormick, C. M./Burks, K. A. Craddock (2008) (p. 91)
"Originating in India (Nelson 1996)" (ID &Biology of Nonnative Plants in FL's Nat. Areas (2nd ed.), p. 91)
United States (continental except west coast)
United States (other states)
USA (Florida) introduced
invasive
cultivated
Weber, Ewald (2017) (p. 470)
"Invasive (species has established populations and exerts negative impacts on other species or habitats)" (p. 470); "Seaside mahoe has become invasive in coastal habitats of southern Florida. It grows mostly as a shrub and forms dense thickets shading out native plants. The spreading lower branches make such thickets almost impenetrable. The plant resist salt apray and wind but is cold-sensitive. Fruits and seeds are buoyant and are dispersed over long distances by sea currents. Seedling sometimes form dense stands at the hight-tide line. The spread of seaside mahoe into natural mangrove forest is of particular concern, and the tree also invades tropical hammocks near the shore. Thickets on the coast change the habitat for animals depending on open beaches (Langeland and Craddock Burks, 1998; Kauifman and Kaufman, 2012)." (p. 470)

Comments:  "Known from most of the Pacific Islands" (A Guide to Pacific Wetland Plants, p. 91); present in Hawaii (Alien plant invasions in native ecosystems in Hawaii, p. 103; Midway Atoll Vascular Plant Checklist, p. 57)

used as a timber-producing windbreak on Pacific islands (Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands, p. 218)

Herbarium specimens: NTBG

Control:  "T[hespesia] populnea is an aggressive colonizer in full sun but will not grow well in the shade of other trees (Friday and Okano, 2006). An integrated control programme could therefore include the creation of shade. For example, mechanical cutting and/or herbicide treatment should be followed by the sowing of grasses, trees or other vegetative cover." (CABI Invasive Species Compendium datasheet for Thespesia populnea (portia tree), accessed 30 October 2017)

"Specific control methods for this species are not available. Seedlings and saplings may be hand pulled or dug out, larger trees cut and the cut stumps treated with herbicide." (Invasive Plants of the World (Weber, 2003), p. 432)


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This page was created on 12 SEP 2017 and was last updated on 13 DEC 2017.