Kleinhovia hospita (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Kleinhovia hospita L.

Protologue: Sp. pl., ed. 2: 1365 (1763).
Family: Sterculiaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 20

Vernacular names

  • Guest tree (En)
  • Indonesia: (ka)timaha, (ka)timanga (Javanese), tangkele (Sundanese)
  • Malaysia: temahai
  • Papua New Guinea: maroai, matakara, metakek (Bismarck Archipelago)
  • Philippines: tanag (Tagalog), bignon (Ilokano), hamitanago (Bikol)
  • Thailand: chomphu-phuang, hatsakhun-thet, po-farang
  • Vietnam: tra dỏ, cây trà.

Origin and geographic distribution

K. hospita occurs naturally throughout tropical Asia, from the Mascarene Islands to Polynesia. It is more common in Central and East Java than in West Java. In Peninsular Malaysia K. hospita is naturally distributed along river banks, especially in Perak and in coastal areas near Melaka.


In the Solomon islands K. hospita provides fuelwood. Its branches which are often twisted, are favoured for ornamental pieces such as knife handles. Straight branches are used for house rafters. Poles are used as stakes for yams ( Dioscorea spp.). The fibrous bark is used for rough cordage. The young leaves are eaten as a vegetable. The juice from the leaves makes a good eye wash. In Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands a preparation from the cambium is used to treat pneumonia. The leaves are also used as a hair-wash to get rid of lice. The attractiveness of the pink-coloured panicles accounts for its spread as an ornamental.


The wood shows a pinkish buff, is moderately fine in texture, soft, light, easy to season, work, and finish. Its energy value is about 19 000 kJ/kg. The leaves and bark of K. hospita contain cyanogenic compounds that are assumed to help to kill ectoparasites such as lice. Extracts of the leaves have shown anti-tumour activity against sarcoma in mice. A number of fatty acids with a cyclopropenylic ring (scopoletin, kaempferol, and quercetin) have been isolated from the leaves.


  • Evergreen, bushy tree up to 20 m tall, with a dense rounded crown and upright pink sprays of flowers and fruits. Bole forking low, developing many suckers when old. Bark fissured, greyish outside, yellowish inside. Twigs softly hairy.
  • Leaves simple, alternate; stipules ensiform to linear, about 8 mm long; petiole 2.5-30 cm long; blade ovate to heart-shaped, 5-30 cm × 4-25 cm, glabrous on both sides, apex pointed, secondary veins in 6-8 pairs, palmately nerved.
  • Inflorescence a terminal, loose panicle protruding from the crown.
  • Flowers about 5 mm wide, pale pink; pedicel 2-10 mm long; bracteoles lanceolate, 2-4 mm long, pubescent; gynandrophore 4-7 mm long, pubescent; sepals 5, linear lanceolate, 6-8 mm long, pink, tomentose; petals 5, inconspicuous, upper one yellow; stamens 15, monadelphous, 8-15 mm long, staminal tube broadly campanulate, adnate to gynandrophore, 5-lobed, each lobe with 3 anthers and alternating with staminodes; anthers sessile, extrorse; pistil with a 5-celled, pilose ovary, one style and a capitate, slightly 5-lobed stigma.
  • Fruit a rounded, 5-lobed, membranous capsule, 2-2.5 cm in diameter, loculicidally dehiscent, each locule 1-2-seeded.
  • Seed globose, whitish, warty, exalbuminous.

Young trees have a fast growing, deeply penetrating main root and develop an extensive, superficial root system. K. hospita flowers throughout the year. The fruits are more conspicuous than the flowers because of their abundance and size. Fruit production starts early, often in the third year after planting.


K. hospita is commonly found in abandoned clearings, grassland and secondary forest from 0-200(-500) m altitude. In Indonesia and Malaysia K. hospita is restricted to areas with a pronounced dry season. In Indonesia it is common in teak forest. In Malaysia it occurs mainly along river banks of the northern part of the Peninsula. It is associated with riverside settlements where it is a vigorous component of secondary forest.


Propagation is by seed. Cuttings are sometimes said to be difficult to root, which is associated with the presence of an uninterrupted sclerenchym band in the pericycle. Other sources report that in the Solomon Islands the bark of the lower part of stakes used in yam plantations is removed to prevent rooting and the development of a shade-producing crown.

K. hospita has been tested in alley-cropping systems. It grows well on acid soils and provides a nutrient-rich mulch. Planting material is often easily available from natural stands. Planting in teak forest is not recommended, as it will overgrow the teak trees.

The wood is susceptible to drywood termites and powder post beetles.

Genetic resources and breeding

No germplasm collections and breeding programmes are known to exist.


K. hospita warrants further testing as a reforestation species, as it is common in abandoned clearings and secondary forest. It is also a promising ornamental, similar in habit to Hibiscus tiliaceus L.


  • Burkill, I.H., 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. 2 volumes. Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. p. 1302.
  • Corner, E.J.H., 1988. Wayside trees of Malaya. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. The Malaysian Nature Society. United Selangor Press, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. p. 708.
  • Henderson, C.P. & Hancock, I.R., 1989. A guide to the useful plants of Solomon Islands. Research Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Honiara, Solomon Islands. pp. 158-160.
  • Kochummen, K.M., 1973. Sterculiaceae. In: Whitmore, T.C. (Editor): Tree Flora of Malaya. A manual for foresters. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Malayan Forest Records No 26. Longman Malaysia Sendirian Berhad, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. pp. 364-365.
  • Sultanul Abedin & Abdul Ghafoor, 1976. Sterculiaceae. In: Nasir, E. & Ali, S.I. (Editors): Flora of West Pakistan No 99. Department of Botany, University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan. pp. 15-16.


  • A. Latiff