Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 567 Hibiscus tiliaceus

Common Names: Mahoe, Sea Hibiscus, Cotton Tree, Majagua Family: Malvaceae (mallow Family)

mahoe flower
The mahoe flower resembles, and is as attractive as, many of the other Hibiscus species.


Mahoe is an evergreen shrub or small, spreading tree to 25 ft (7.6 m) high and nearly as wide. The alternate leaves have long petioles and are heart shaped with pointed tips. They are leathery, whitish and pubescent beneath, and 4-8 in (10.2-20.3 cm) long. The flowers are large and showy, starting out yellow in the daytime and turning red by evening. They are typical Hibiscus flowers: funnel shaped with five petals and a prominent central column which bears the stamens and the pistil.


Hibiscus tiliaceus is native to tropical Asia. In Florida it has escaped from cultivation and now occurs in disturbed coastal sites from Brevard County on the Atlantic Coast and Manatee County on the Gulf Coast, southward.


Light: Does best in full sun. Moisture: Mahoe needs a lot of water and cannot tolerate prolonged drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 11. Propagation: By seed, cuttings and air-layering.
This mahoe tree grows along the edge of a parking lot at a Tampa Bay beach from where it will eventually be removed and native vegetation restored.


Mahoe is grown as an ornamental throughout the tropics in both the New World and Old World, hence the many common names. It is especially popular in Australia. Mahoe is salt tolerant and produces flowers almost all year long. It makes an attractive specimen tree in beach-front settings.


The flowers and young leaves are edible. In Asia the fast-growing mahoe is harvested for the fiber in its trunk, which is made into rope.


Mahoe is listed as a Category II pest plant by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, which means that it has the potential to be invasive and to disrupt native plant communities by displacing native species. (Category I species are KNOWN to be invasive.) Mahoe is not on Florida's list of prohibited plants, however, and is sometimes sold by commercial nurseries. We do not recommend using this tree in Florida landscapes.

Steve Christman 08/29/99; updated 6/21/04

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Hibiscus species profiled on Floridata:

Hibiscus coccineus

( scarlet hibiscus, scarlet rose mallow )

Hibiscus grandiflorus

( giant rose mallow, swamp hibiscus, velvet mallow,giant hibiscus )

Hibiscus laevis

( halberdleaf marshmallow, halberd-leaved marshmallow, halberd-leaved rose mallow, smooth marshmallow )

Hibiscus moscheutos

( swamp mallow, swamp hibiscus, swamp rose mallow )

Hibiscus mutabilis

( confederate rose, cotton rose )

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

( Chinese hibiscus, rose-of-China, Hawaiian hibiscus )

Hibiscus sabdariffa

( roselle, Florida cranberry, Indian sorrel, Jamaican sorrel )

Hibiscus syriacus

( rose-of-Sharon, althea )

Hibiscus tiliaceus

( Mahoe, Sea Hibiscus, Cotton Tree, Majagua )

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