Friday, March 20, 2009

Thespesia grandiflora

Thespesia grandiflora | Maga, Maga Colorada, Tulipán del Japón. Photo:©2010 Ronald C. Flores

Thespesia grandiflora (formerly known as Montezuma speciosissima and Maga grandiflora) is endemic to Puerto Rico. Originally found in humid forests near San Juan, (including El Yunque), it has been introduced to Florida and Hawaii, and as well as other countries of the Caribbean and South America. Although the Maga is commonly referred to as a “Hibiscus”, it belongs to a different genus than the common tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis).

Thespesia grandiflora grows to a height of 15m. It is grown both as an ornamental and for its wood. The leaves are heart-shaped, shiny green and range in size from 5cm to 20cm long. The Maga flower is the official flower of Puerto Rico. Trees begin flowering between 5-7 years of age. The dark-pink to red flowers are produced intermittently throughout the year in warm climates. After flowering, a seed capsule forms containing grayish brown seeds. Both the seed capsule and seeds are buoyant and can be carried long distances on ocean currents.

Historical Reference: The only species in this genus, Montezuma speciosissima, maga, with very large red flowers, is native in the moist limestone forest region of Puerto Rico. It has been planted extensively for ornament and shade in other parts of the island and has been introduced through the West Indies to southern Florida. Closely related to the genus Thespesia and named simultaneously T. grandiflora

   Rare and endemic trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
   Issue 27 of Conservation research report
   Published by U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1980