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Milo - Portia tree

English name:

Portia tree
Family name:
Malvaceae (Mallow family)
Scientific name:
Thespesia populnea
Introduced by:
Polynesian introduction
Coasts of the Eastern Tropics
See Also...



It is a widespread plant, from Tropical Asia to eastern Polynesia and Micronesia. This species was a popular shade tree around homes, as seen around the house of Kamehameha I in Waikiki.


Milo may thrive from lower dry forests to the wet forest. Commonly found in protected coastal sites on all main islands of Hawaii. It is occasionally found in the littoral forests of atolls and high islands, not far from shoreline. Seems to do best when there is enough moisture and good fertile soil and prefers tropical climate.


Stem: A perennial dicotyledonous tree, with a trunk that can attain a maximum diameter of about 2 feet and the tree can grow to 40 feet. The branches spread horizontally with a thick, corrugated bark.
It forms heart-shaped shiny leaves with palmate venation, alternately arranged along the stems, and the leaf stalks are almost as long as the leaf blades (3-5 inches in diameter).
Flower: It bears bell-shaped flowers which resemble a hibiscus flower, perfect (with both stamen and pistil) and complete (with all the four parts of a flower). The flowers are yellow in color with maroon inside on base of each five petals which are about 2.5 inches long. The calyx (sepals) is disc-like and unlobed.
Fruit: The fruit is a round capsule about 1 inch across & is indehiscent (remains close when mature). The grayish brown seeds are 8-15 mm long shiny to hairy, and maybe covered with brown pubescence.


The beautifully grained wood of milo has been very useful to the Polynesians. It was made into calabashes for poi since it did not contain as much tannin as koa had. The wood is superior to that of hau, but the bark is inferior. It is used to make bowls, paddles, and other carved objects. The tree also yields tannin, dye, medicine, oil and gum and the young leaves are edible. It was one of the popular shade trees that the Hawaiians would use as a landscape plant.


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