Thespesia populnea, commonly known as the Indian tulip tree, Pacific rosewood, or Portia tree, is species of flowering plant in the mallow family, Malvaceae. Indian Tulip Tree attains the height of 40 feet or more. It is a very large tree. It has heart shaped leaves and the cup shaped flowers. It is a fast growing, evergreen tree. It is very bushy when it is young but thins out with the age. Each flower is white-yellow in colour and has maroon eye that ages to purple. The flowers bloom year round and lasts for three days. The major branches of the tree grow straight, with the thick corrugated bark. They are Its barks are stringy and light grey in colour. Its fruit is the round capsule which is about one inch across. Its seeds are greyish brown in colour.
It is an autotrophic organisation.
Early growth rates are rapid in the first few years (0.5-1.5 m per year), but slow down after reaching 7-10 years old. In southern Africa, T. populneaflowers in February and March and fruits from March to June, but can be year round in equatorial climates without marked dry seasons.
T. populnea is a predominantly coastal species of tropical and warm subtropical climates, usually found from sea level up to 150 m altitude, and is cold-sensitive, though it can withstand the occasional very light frost. The mean annual temperature range is 20-26°C, and with mean annual rainfall from 500 mm up to 4000 (-5000) mm. It can survive in dry locations as it develops a long taproot in porous soils, and can tolerate a dry season of up to 8 months (Oudhia, 2007). It grows best in full sunlight and does not grow well in shade. It is resistant to salt spray and sea wind, and is notably common along tropical coasts, on the shores of bays and inlets, on silts, corals and thrives on sandy soils, but is also found on volcanic, limestone and rocky soils with a pH of 6.0-7.4, tolerating heavier soils, soil salinity and occasional inundation, but does not grow on permanently inundated sites (Oudhia, 2007).
T. populnea is usually propagated artificially by seed, but propagation by stem or root cuttings or by air-layering is also possible. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox, retaining viability when dried and stored. Germination can be difficult due to the hard seed coat, and is improved by scarification. Direct sowing is common, but stump planting and transplanting wildings is also practised (Oudhia, 2007).
T. populnea fruit capsules are indehiscent, i.e. do not split open on ripening, and the lightweight fruits and seeds float. They tolerate salt water and remain viable even after a year spent in water (Oudhia, 2007). Dissemination of this species from island to island by ocean currents is apparently the natural means of spread (Little and Skolmen, 1989)
The woods of the tree are used in boat building as well as firewood.
It is abundant.