Queen of the Flowers

The Hibiscus or Queen of the Flowers is commonplace in KZN, so much so that part of our southern coast is named after this flower. But the most common species of Hibiscus in South Africa, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, otherwise known as Chinese Hibiscus, originates from South-East Asia.

Interestingly, the Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia where it was introduced in the 12th century. The use of Cape-Malay slaves in South Africa in the past gives an idea of how it arrived in South Africa. Trade routes have also had a great influence on plant distribution. The discovery of the passage around the Cape of Good Hope by Vasco de Gama in 1497, the subsequent establishment of Portuguese and Spanish trading centres in India and other Asian countries,  and the colonisation of Madagascar and the African East Coast are all thought to have contributed to the dispersion of the Hibiscus. Another possible origin of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is Lemuria, which is said to be an ancient, sunken continent of which the Malagasy claim only Madagascar remains emergent. See more detail here.

We have a Hibiscus bush in bloom, it is beautiful (see great photo courtesy of my mom, Helen). And apparently multi-purpose; Hibiscus flower preparations are used for hair care, they are used as ornamental plants in the tropics and subtropics, the flowers are edible and are used in salads in the Pacific Islands and are also used to shine shoes in parts of India. There are numerous varieties and colour variations. Do you know of other varieties that are common in KZN or South Africa?

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

7 Responses to Queen of the Flowers

  1. Dagmar April 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    Go to Jack and Beverly’s garden and you can see at least 5 different varieties. He loves the hibiscus. Dunno if they are common, but he did have a lavender purple flower I had never seen before.

  2. Niall McNulty April 22, 2009 at 4:32 pm #

    Hey Mol-d, this is a fascinating bit of history. I love tracking the journey of plants and working out how they came to South Africa.

    This flower is a colonial relic.

  3. emme April 23, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    interesting that it is the national flower of malaysia, even thoguh it’s not endemic as it was introduced in 12th C. huh. i really like the yellow ones.

  4. Delores September 18, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    Hi There,
    Just stumbled across this website and love it with all its fantastic information about all kinds of plants and Flowers which I know very little of. Thank you for that.
    However I love the Hibiscus Flower but battle to grow it myself in my garden. I have two which were already there when I bought the house, but tried planting a yellow one which died.I dont know what to do. How do I nourish these flowers as I see my other two do flower, but dont look so healthy as I think they should be. Please Help

    Regards
    Delores

  5. mol-d September 18, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    Hi Delores,

    I’m not sure where or which type of Hibiscus you are trying to grow but below are some links that should help:

    http://www.essortment.com/hobbies/growcarehibisc_spcw.htm

    http://flowergardens.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_grow_hardy_hibiscus

    and particularly

    http://www.archaeolink.com/grow_tropical_or_hardy_hibiscus.htm

  6. khalid July 28, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

    hey.know that this isnt a current posting.
    just reckon you folk might be interested to know that hibiscus species are indeed native to the last outpost.
    hibiscus tiliaceous..spelling?..large bush,yellow flowers.seen a few at riverside next to river.and the reserve fence along fairway road/drive whatever, durban north
    hibiscus pendunculatus.small shrub.spotted at kloof gorge.sold at tropical nursery.pretty in pink.

  7. mol-d July 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    had heard of some form of indigenous hibiscus.. thanks for the info khalid! maybe snap some pics and post them in if you can…

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