Hibiscus tiliaceus L.
Family: Malvaceae
Mahoe,  more...
Hibiscus tiliaceus image
Kim and Forest Starr  
A small tree, in age intricately branched with many spreading low branches without a tall central trunk; youngest branches gray-pubescent, older ones glabrate with grayish rather smooth very fibrous and mucilaginous bark; reaching a height of 10 (rarely 15-18) m, broadcrowned, dense; leaves on petioles 3-12 cm long; blades cordate, acuminate, to 20 cm long, equally wide, velvety-pubescent when young, glabrate and dark green above, grayish-white stellate-tomentose beneath, and slightly glaucous; several major nerves with linear basal glands dorsally; flowers terminal or axillary, about 10 cm wide, yellow with a maroon-purple eye, cupularcampanulate, aging (after falling) to orange-red, single or usually in few-flowered open cymes of panicles; stipules, bracts, and 10-12-bracted epicalyx conspicuous; pedicels 1-3 cm long; calyx 5-lobed; staminal tube shorter than corolla; free tips of filaments along whole length of stamina! tube; ovary 5-celled with false septa, seemingly 10-celled; capsules ovoid-globose 2.5 cm long, 2 cm wide, pubescent, grayish-brown; seeds brownish-black, generally 15.-Fig. 65, Pl. 9d.

A pantropical strand plant favoring sandy or somewhat muddy coasts, also on limestone rocks, often at the edges of mangrove swamps, inland along estuaries, sometimes on terraces to a few hundred feet above the sea, wild or planted. The wood is light, fairly tough, pale; when freshly cut the heartwood is reddish but soon darkens; easily finished but not very durable. The fibrous bark is a source of cordage all over the Pacific Region. The trees often form a nearly impenetrable thicket with interlacing low horizontal branches. In Guam this is a common plant and has lent its name to several localities (e.g., Pago Bay). It is sometimes cultivated. If trimmed it makes a useful shade tree; it can form a natural "arbor" or roof of leafy twigs. The flowers last only 1 day (as is true of Hibiscus in general) but the tree flowers all year. In Ponape, mucilage from the bark is added to the ceremonial sakau drink prepared from the roots of Piper methysticum (kava). Manengon, beside the stream above Tarzan Falls (3881); Barrigada Hill (4504).

USES: Medicinal, construction, cordage. The mucilage from the bark is dripped onto eye ailments such as “pink eye” (mata kovi) and eye injuries (mata lavea). An infusion of the bark is sometimes taken as a potion for treating stomachache (langa kete). Its soft, easily worked wood is often fashioned into outrigger floats, house parts, and tool handles, and is a favorite for firewood. Also of great utility are the inner bark fibers that were twisted into cordage for making fishing lines, nets, mats, and ropes.

Hibiscus tiliaceus is a wide-ranging species found in both the Old and New World tropics.It is native throughout Polynesia, and in Tonga is common on beaches, in disturbed places, secondary forest, and on the margins of estuaries and swamps. The plant is a medium-sized tree up to 15 m in height, erect with a broad crown or forming dense thickets with its low, spreading branches. The simple, alternately arranged leaves have a heart-shaped blade mostly 8‒20 cm long. The flowers have a corolla of five petals 5‒8 cm long, lemon yellow with purple at the base, and with the stamens united into a tube. The fruit is a subglobose capsule mostly 15‒25 mm wide, containing ca. 15 seeds that are released when the capsule splits open.