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Hibiscus schizopetalus (Dyer) Hook.f. 1880
pronounced: hy-BISS-kuss skitz-oh-PET-uh-luss
(Malvaceae – the hibiscus family)
common names: Coral Hibiscus, Japanese Lantern, Fringed Rosemallow
Hibiscus is the Latin name for the marshmallow plant; schizopetalus is from the Greek σχιζω (schizo), to split, and πεταλον (petalon), a leaf, petal – split petals.
Exotic as this wonderful flower looks, it is not the result of careful breeding by horticulturalists, but is one of the original forms of the hibiscus. It is frequently used as a parent in the modern hybrids. It forms an arching shrub up to about 4 m, and produces flowers sporadically throughout most of the year in our climate here on Magnetic Island. These flowers are attractive to butterflies, particularly some of the larger Swallowtails.
This species is a native of Kenya, Tanzania and northern Mozambique. It has leaves to about 12 cm, with short petioles; the leaves are green, hairless, alternate, sharply toothed, unlobed, and elliptic to oblong in shape, and the plant bears delicate pendulous flowers with long styles, on slender drooping stalks. The flowers are reddish with coral pink streaks. There are 5 fringed, deeply pinnately-lobed, recurved petals and a pink, pendant, curved, up to 10 cm long central staminal column with a 5-branched style and anthers near the tip of the column. The flowers are followed by oblong, cylindrical seed capsules. When Hibiscus schizopetalus is crossed with other varieties, the long staminal column is retained.
The plant is propagated by cuttings of half-ripe wood or by layers. Cuttings are slow to root, and should be treated with a rooting hormone.
There are more than 200 species of herbs, shrubs and small trees sharing the name Hibiscus, and most of them are tropical. With a few exceptions, most species in this genus are scentless; the flowers open in the morning and die after about 12 hours. They are popular with sunbirds, who insert their beaks between the petals at the back of the flower to reach the nectar.
Photographs taken in Arcadia 2011, 2013
Page last updated 12th December 2016