Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Talipariti tiliaceum (Linnaeus)

Species:T. tiliaceum
Common Names:Sea Hibiscus


This is an evergreen tree growing to a height of 15 m. Leaves are simple, heart-shaped, 7.5-15 cm wide and just as long, margin finely toothed and with a distinct tip. The leaves are dark-green above, whitish below and spirally-arranged. Flowers are bisexual, with bright yellow petals with a maroon centre. The flowers are present throughout the year. They open at about 9 am and close at about 4 pm on sunny days or early the next morning. Day-old flowers turn deep orange before dropping. The fruit is a rounded capsule, 1.8 cm wide, that splits when ripe into five parts to release kidney-shaped seeds that can float in seawater, to be dispersed away from the parent plant. It is a close relative of the Portia Tree (Thespesia populnea).

Read more about the Malvales order.
Read more about the Malvaceae family.


The tree is native to the Old World tropics of Asia and Polynesia.


Found throughout coastal areas in Singapore and its offshore islands.

General Biology

The Sea Hibiscus grows very fast. Its presence marks the high tide water level and indicates the end of salt water penetration.

The veins on the underside of the leaves near the stalk have small slit-like nectaries which exude a sweet substance that attracts ants to drink from. It is believed that the ants, probably Crematogaster sp., may help defend the plant against herbivorous pests or bite off trailing climbers that weigh the plant down.

Ecological Role

The seeds of the Sea Hibiscus are food for the larvae of Cotton Stainer Bugs (Dysdercus decussatus).

Human Uses

The stringy bark of the Sea Hibiscus is a source of excellent fibre for making strings, ropes, fishing nets and for stuffing up the gaps between the planks in the boat hull to make it watertight. The wood can be used to make planks and light boats. Young leaves are edible while older ones are used in traditional medicine for the treatment of fever, coughs and bronchitis. The roots are believed to have a cooling effect and can be used to treat fever. The seeds have been used in the making of perfumes, hair oil and ointments.


Chong, K. Y., H. T. W. Tan & R. T. Corlett, 2009. A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore: Native, Naturalised and Cultivated Species. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, Singapore. 273 pp.

Ng, P. K. L., L. K. Wang & K. K. P. Lim (eds.), 2008. Private Lives: an Exposé of Singapore's Mangroves. The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Singapore. 249 pp.

Wee, Y. C. 2003. Tropical trees and shrubs - A selection for urban plantings. Sun Tree Pub., Singapore. 392pp.

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