Do you know a Plopnut from a Mahoe?

Know Your Islands

A hike along Cayman dyke roads or the beach provides a view of Cayman’s beautiful seaside trees.

Seaside mahoe

Above is a bloom from a Seaside mahoe. At right is a Plopnut. Photos: Submitted

Some of these saltwater tolerant trees that flower year round may be confused with one another.

Plopnut (or popnut) and Seaside mahoe are similar, but have different shaped leaves if you look closely and plopnut has dark seed pods. The flowers of the mahoe are shaped like a heart and the flowers are yellow or orange with yellow centers which turn maroon before they die. The seaside landscape celebrates the beauty of the indigenous shrub woodland vegetation, comprising salt and wind tolerant trees and shrubs, common to this area. The following is taken from Wild Trees in the Cayman Islands by Fred Burton, with illustrations by Penny Clifford; photographs generously provided by Ann Stafford.


Thespesia populnea

Plopnut (or Popnut) is usually found growing in dense thickets, each tree having multiple trunks spreading from the base. Young branches have grey and brown bark densely pock-marked with breathing pores, while older bark develops rough, shallow vertical fissures.

The flowers are pale yellow when they first open in the morning, but as the day passes they gradually turn a dull purple-red. Each flower only lasts a day. The seed pods dry to a dark brown before fragmenting to release the angular and somewhat hairy seeds.

Plopnut is found throughout the tropics. In the Cayman Islands it is often found in abundance on the edge of mangrove areas, and near the sea, being able to tolerate rather salty groundwater.

Plopnut wood is strong, and was used in shipbuilding, particularly for the ribs of the hull. It will grow fast and in a rather unruly fashion; it is suitable in large scale informal landscaping schemes where the groundwater is affected by salt. It takes well from cuttings.

Protect Cayman trees and encourage Cayman Wildlife! For more information, to share your knowledge or if you would like to get involved with the many activities in the National Trust’s Know Your Islands Program, please visit or contact [email protected] or 949-0121.

The weekly column from the National Trust is submitted by Marnie Laing, Education Programs Manager at the Trust. The Trust can be contacted at 949-0121 or via email at [email protected]

Comments are closed.