Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Thespesia populnea (L.) Sol. ex CorrĂȘa

Kingdom:Plantae
Phylum/Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Eudicots
Order:Malvales
Family:Malvaceae
Genus:Thespesia
Species:T. populnea
Common Names:Portia Tree
Status:Common

Etymology

Its genus name Thespesia is derived from the Greek word thespesios, which means 'divine' or 'sacred', in reference to the Tahitians who considered it as such and planted it near places of worship in their country.

Description

This tree grows to a height of 20 m. Leaves are simple, heart-shaped, with a distinct tip, resembling that of its close relative, the Sea Hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum). The bisexual flowers persist throughout the year, possessing bright yellow petals that change to purple usually within a day. The fruit is a rounded capsule that floats and is dispersed by sea currents. Its seeds are also buoyant, and are released by shattering or decay of the capsule.

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

Localities

Pasir Ris Park, Pulau Semakau, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

General Biology

Unlike the Sea Hibiscus (T. tiliaceum), the Portia Tree does not have nectaries on the undersides of its leaves.

Ecological Role

The larvae of the Thespesia Fire-bug (Dysdercus simon), a close relative of the Cotton Stainer Bug (D. decussatus), feed on the seeds of the Portia Tree.

References

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.

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Habitats

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