Indian Tulip TreeThespesia populnea

  • Sandy Beach & Dunes
  • Sandy shores
  • Flora
  • Native
  • Medicinal


Thespesia populnea is a tree native to Mauritius and found throughout the tropics. Locally, the tree grows to a maximum of 8 meters[1], but can reach up to 10 meters[2]. It is distinguished by its dense crown with simple alternating leaves. The leaves are heart-shaped and stand on long stalks. The tree produces large flowers which are wrinkled, trumpet-shaped, and yellow turning red as they mature. The fruit are dry, brittle, brown and pear-shaped.


[1] Atkinson, Rachel, and Jean-Claude Sevathian. 2005. A guide to the plants in Mauritius. Vacoas: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.

[2] Rivers, M.C. & Mark, J. 2017.  Thespesia populnea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T61788175A61788179. Downloaded on 18 August 2018.

Habitat and ecology

Thespesia populnea is common in most coastal regions around the world. Its preferred habitats are the inland edges of mangrove swamps, along tidal waters and on sandy shores. The species tolerates dry and saline conditions. It is also used as an ornamental shrub which is planted on roadsides and in urban areas. It can be propagated by seed, stem cutting and air layering.


Conservation and management

Due to its very wide distribution and population numbers the species is currently classified as ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN Red List.

Did you know?

Although the root is toxic, Thespesia populnea’s tender leaves, flower, flower buds and fruit are edible and are used as a famine food. It also has medicinal properties in treatment against many illnesses, including dermatitis, tumour formation and has anti-fungal properties. The bark can be used for cordage and for caulking boats. Oil can also be extracted from the seeds.[1]


[1] Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. 2018-08-18. <>