Burao Flower Vanuatu Meteorology & Geo-Hazard Department


  • Burao trees can fall over during high winds but may continue to grow. They regenerate quickly after cyclones.
  • The wood of this tree is resistant to rot and naturally arched, making it ideal for use in constructing cyclone shelters. The bark can be used to make rope.
  • Burao trees can be used to stabilise soil and as coastal protection.
  • The seed remains viable even after floating in seawater for several months.
  • They can be used as a living fence.

Hibiscus tiliaceus

Burao is found in the tropics and subtropics and is native to Vanuatu.

An evergreen tree, it can grow to 3-10 m in height. It has a crooked, tangled and sprawling shape and the canopy is generally wider than its height. The bark is smooth to lightly fissured and grey to light brown in colour. The bark thickens and roughens as the tree ages.

Burao can be highly variable in shape and in the leaf and flower colours.


The leaves are 6-22 cm in length and have an ovate (oval or egg shaped) to orbicular shape (spherical or rounded). They can be heart-shaped and are large and wavy. The upper surface of the leaves is bright green and greyish-green and hairy on the underside.


Terminal 3-6 flowered cymes (flower cluster with a central stem where a single terminal flower develops before the others develop off lateral stems) or solitary. Five radiating, obovate (ovate with a narrower end at the base), yellow petals that are 4-6.5 cm long and have a base colour of dark red/maroon. The stamen, or male fertilizing organ of the flower, has a tube that is 2-2.5 cm in length. The flowers are showy, fragile, and short-lived, falling the same day that they open. The flowers fade to pink prior to falling.


The fruits are 1.6 to 2.2 cm in length. The fruit casing is ovoid-ellipsoid in shape and light brown in colour with densely matted grey woolly hairs. 

The seeds are brown, 4 x 2 mm in length and width, tuberculate (kidney-shaped, with 5-7 seeds per cell), and hairy.

  • First fully open flower
  • Less than half the tree is in full flower
  • More than half the tree is in full flower
  • All of the tree is in full flower
  • No flowering
  • Less than half the tree has fruit
  • More than half the tree has fruit
  • All of the tree has fruit
  • No fruit
  • Green fruit present
  • Ripened fruit present
  • First leaf to change colour (< 25% of the leaves have changed colour)
  • Leaving changing colour (>50 % of the leaves have changed colour)
  • No leaves
  • Leaves are very green

When to Look

  • Flowering and fruiting can occur at any time of the year.

 Where to Look

  • Low-elevation habitats, up to 800 m with annual rainfall of 900 – 2500 mm.
  • Sandy seashores and mangrove swamps. 
  • Grows in a wide range of soils, including water-logged and limestone.

Similar Species

Thespesia populnea (Portia Tree, Indian Tulip tree) – distinguished by glossy green, lightly or none hairy leaves, by pale yellow flowers that quickly turn dark pink-reddish, and by large green fruits that blacken and are wrinkly at maturity.