Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hibsicus syriacus

Shortly after I snapped a few photos of yesterday's plant, Cleome hassleriana, I was happy to see Hibiscus syriacus growing on the west side of Stuyvesant Park.

Hibiscus syriacus, also known as rose-of-sharon, is a keystone heirloom plant in Victorian-era gardens. Indeed it was one of the most popular shrubs planted during this time and well up until the second world war. It's loved for good reason, too; it is tough, drought tolerant, requires little fertilizer and blooms from mid-summer to early fall. All you must do is give this plant a dry, sunny location. In shade it fails to bloom as profusely and the plant can get a mildew if it's too wet.

The foliage is recognizable, though late to leaf out. Leaves are trident-shaped with curly edges. During the summer, when the plant is in bloom, large buds form profusely along the stem. (A warning - this plant can self-seed with great success, so in the wrong setting it can become a maintenance problem).

The overall habit is a vase-shaped shrub, reaching eight to ten feet. This specimen was a bit ragged-looking and I felt I'd be doing the species an injustice to include a photo of such a sub-par specimen. Though the actual flowers looked great.

The flower itself should look familiar - just last week I posted a relative of this plant - Malva moschata and last summer I posted about Hibiscus moscheutos. All are recognizable for their unusual staminal column.

Regarding the species name, syriacus would indicate this plant is from Syria and I made that assumption the last time I talked about Hibiscus. That was a mistake. When the plant received its species name it was assumed the plant was from Syria. It is actually native to Asia, more specifically, Korea. In fact, this plant is the national flower of South Korea.

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