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Seashore and Beach Plants

Thespesia populnea Portia Tree Baru laut Malvaceae

 

 Portia Tree, baru laut, Thespesia populnea

 

Thespesia populnea

 Portia Tree, baru laut, Thespesia populnea

Its leaves turn yellow seasonally.
It is the host of the Cotton Stainer Bug (Dysdercus decussatus), and the plant was eradicated in many cotton-growing areas to eliminate this insect.
Uses as food: The fruits, flowers and young leaves are edible.
Other uses: The timber is hard, termite-resistant, has an attractive grain and dark-red colour, and is naturally oily so it can be highly polished (thus it is also called Pacific Rosewood). But the timber is often twisted and rarely found in large pieces so it makes only small items. As the timber does not impart a flavour, it is often used to carve wooden food bowls and food utensils in Hawaii.
The tough fibrous bark is made into rope (Hawaii and elsewhere) but is not as good for this purpose as Sea Hibiscus is. The bark is also used to caulk boats (Malay). Cork is made from the inner bark.
A yellow dye is obtained from the flower and fruits, and a red one from the bark and heartwood.
Other products extracted from the plant includes tannin, oil and gums (a dark red resin exudes from the bark). A fast growing shrub that grows into a small tree with spreading branches, it casts welcome shade and in Hawaii were planted near homes for this purpose. In India, they were planted to provide shade in coffee and tea plantations.
Traditional medicinal uses: Ground up bark is used to treat skin diseases (India), dysentery and haemorrhoids (Mauritius). Leaves are applied to inflamed and swollen joints (South India). When cut, the young fruit secretes a yellow sticky sap used to treat ringworm and other skin diseases (South India). Roots are used as a tonic. There is some modern investigation of the plant's effects on high blood pressure.

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