More fully "purau tree". In certain Polynesian islands: an evergreen shrub or small tree, Hibiscus tiliaceus (family Malvaceae), occurring widely in littoral regions of the tropics, which has pale yellow flowers turning deep red with age, and an inner bark which yields a useful fibre. Frequently attributive Compare "hau".
Mid 18th century; earliest use found in Joseph Banks (1743–1820), naturalist and patron of science. From Tahitian pūrau evergreen shrub or small tree, Hibiscus tiliaceus.