Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Marsh Mallow Rose of China

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Boreas Yellow' in a bed of basil.
Summer is rapidly approaching in the Austral Home Bug Garden and I've been distracted by all of the spring flowers at my new location. The previous owner spent a decade planting what caught her fancy, but the tags have survived on only a few, so most are mysterious and some intractable. One group that I never expected to fancy are the hybrids of the 'Hawaiian' Hibiscus (really from China first), Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Linnaeus.  'Hibiscus' comes to us from the Greek for the Marsh Mallow Althaea officinalis L. whose roots gave us the original marshmallow and 'rosa sinensis' litterally means Rose of China.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Psyche' (the only one with a tag)
Unfortunately, the hybrid hibisci don't seem to be very attractive to insects, except to the annoying Hibiscus Flower Beetle (Aethina concolor (W.J. Macleay, 1871)), a native species that makes short shrift of the large and fleshy hybrid blossoms. However, this simple red variety ('Psyche') is attractive to the honeyeaters, especially when the flowers are in their pre-opening 'flagged' state.
Flagged Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Psyche'
Still, even a home bug garden is also for the human occupants and I've decided that the diversity of hibiscus mutant forms are quite entertaining and have just added my first contribution (the 'Boreas Yellow' at the top). They obviously do well here and grow into attractive screening hedges.
Hibiscus possibly 'Brassy Blonde'
Alas, putting names to the various varieties can be parlous. There are thousands of varieties and many are close variations on a theme. For example, the (maybe) 'Brassy Blonde' above is similar to 'Boreas Yellow', but the eye lighter, the rays lavender and the outer petals a rich mix of gold and yellow.
Hibiscus possibly 'Lion's Mane'
I'm punting now, but here are a few more mysteries or best guesses.
Hibiscus 'Albo Lacinatus' an early hybrid

One of the 'tossed salad' type hybrids

Who knows, but the Hibiscus Flower Beetles like it

A single pink hybrid

A semi-double pink hybrid

A Native Hollyhock - Hibiscus splendens from nearby riparian rainforest margin

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