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Thespesia populnea, Hibiscus populneus, Seaside Mahoe, Portia Tree, Milo

Thespesia populnea, Hibiscus populneus

Seaside Mahoe, Portia Tree, Milo
Family: Malvaceae
Origin: India
Big tree taller than 20 ftFull sunRegular waterYellow, orange flowersRed, crimson, vinous flowersPlant attracts butterflies, hummingbirdsSeaside, salt tolerant plant

Known as Milo in Hawaii, the Thespesia populnea (Seaside Mahoe) is often planted in front of Buddhist Temples. Originally from the Old World, this fast-growing species was brought to Hawaii by early Polynesian settlers and was considered sacred. It is a hardy shrub that grows into a small tree with dark-red wood, spreading branches and an attractive grain. The fruits, flowers, young leaves and timber are all edible, with the latter famously used to create wooden food bowls and utensils, and it has a range of traditional medicinal uses.

Tannin, oil and a dark red resin exude from its bark and its showy red, crimson, vinous and yellow-orange flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This tree is an excellent feature in gardens because of its resistance to salt and termite damage, as well as its ability to cast welcome shade. It is well suited to seaside locations and can be successfully grown in USDA Zones 9-11.

Plant Thespesia populnea in full sun and a location where it can receive regular water in well-drained soil. Fertilize it twice a month with a balanced fertilizer for optimum results and insure it is adequately protected in colder climates. Make sure the pot has ample drainage and lightweight soil mix and that a frost-resistant insulation barrier is used.

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