Where seen? A very common shrub to tall tree, this plant
with delightful heart-shaped leaves and bright yellow flowers that
attract red bugs is often seen on many of our wild shores. It is also
often planted in our seaside parks. According to Corners, it is common
on seashores throughout the tropics, and found in sandy and rocky
shores of Malaya, extending up rivers and penetrating mangroves and
nipah palm communities. It is often planted by streams and ditches
in rice-fields. According to Tomlinson, it is common on seashores
especially adjacent to beaches, but also recorded to altitudes of
800m, and is widely planted. Its precise natural and geographic distribution
The Sea hibiscus has been regrouped and renamed as Talipariti tiliaceum
based on DNA studies. But the old name Hibiscus tiliaceus.is
still widely used.
Features: A shrub to a tall tree
growing to 10-15m. Leaves (10-15cm) heart-shaped, dark green and shiny
above, white and finely furry beneath. The leaves have tiny slits
on the main veins on the underside of the leaf. Secretions from these
slits often attracts ants. Flower a typical hibiscus-shape, yellow
with maroon eye fading to dull pink or orange before falling. Stigma
column light yellow, stigma deep crimson purple. According to Corners,
the flower blooms at about 9am, long after sunrise and close in the
afternoon at about 4pm. The petals usually fall off the same evening
or the next morning. Usually, every flower sets fruit. Fruit ripens
to a tiny dry capsule (2-3cm) surrounded by the calyx. It splits open
to reveal the seeds which float and can withstand extended periods
of immersion in sea water.
Role in the habitat: Each of three
veins on the underside of the leaf near the stalk have a small slit.
A sweet substance is secreted from these slits, and ants of all sizes
can be seen drinking from them. Among these, are the fierce Weaver
ants (Oecophylla smaragdina), which may help keep off insect
pests. Some insects that feed on the plant include the Cotton
stainer bug (Dysdercus decussatus) that feeds on its seeds.
Human uses: According to Burkill, this shrub has been "one
of the most important fibre-plants among the inhabitants of Malaya"
and were planted wherever the Malays went. The fibres from the plant
is used to make cords as well as to caulk boats. Cords are made into
fishing lines and nets as well as bags. Cords were also used for harpoons
to catch dugongs, and in elephant gear for dragging timbers. In the
Pacific, it was the fibre "par excellence" and used for
all purposes. The cords may be strengthened by tanning. To prepare
the fibre, the bark is stripped and spread out on the ground for a
day or two to dry. The fibre is then separated from the outer layers
and twisted or plaited into a rope.
The timber has a wide range of uses from building houses, boats, household
implements to firewood. The leaves may be fed to cattle.
According to Wee, the leaves are considered cooling in Malaysia and
Indonesia and used to control fevers. The leaves are also used to
sooth and remove phlegm in respiratory ailments. In the Philippines,
fresh bark soaked in water is used to treat dysentery.
Wetland Reserve, Jan 02
the leaf veins.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Apr 02
flower turns orange
before it drops off.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Nov 03
Pulau Semakau, Jan 09
Adult Bugs are often found in large numbers
under Sea hibiscus leaves.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Feb 09
Kranji Canal, Mar 09
Changi Boardwalk, Sep 09
Changi Boardwalk, Sep 09
Chek Jawa, Oct 09
Woodland Park, Apr 09
- Hsuan Keng,
S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The
Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons.
Singapore University Press. 222 pp.
E. J. H., 1997. Wayside
Trees of Malaya: in two volumes.
Fourth edition, Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1:
1-476 pp, plates 1-38; volume 2: 477-861 pp., plates 139-236.
P. B., 1986. The
Botany of Mangroves
Cambridge University Press. USA. 419 pp.
I. H., 1993. A
Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula.
3rd printing. Publication Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1: 1-1240; volume 2: 1241-2444.
- Wee Yeow
Chin. 1992. A
Guide to Medicinal Plants. The Singapore Science Centre.