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?