Hibiscus divaricatus

native hibiscus


Hibiscus divaricatus

Graham 1830

pronounced: hy-BISS-kuss dih-vah-rih-KAH-tuss

(Malvaceae — the hibiscus family)

synonym — Hibiscus divaricatus var. luteus

Hochr. 1900

pronounced: hy-BISS-kuss dih-vah-rih-KAH-tuss variety LOO-tee-uss

common name: native hibiscus

native 4Hibiscusis the ancient Latin name for the marshmallow plant Athaea officinalis, and was a transliteration from the Greek 'ιβισκος; divaricatus is Latin for ‘spread, stretched apart’; luteus is Latin for ‘yellow’.

Hibiscus divaricatus is an Australian native, found in Queensland, the Northern Territory, and in northern parts of Western Australia. It is usually a shrub, but can reach the size of a small tree, up to about 5 m tall. As the luteus suggests, the flower of this species is usually yellow, but the one pictured is a rarer white form.

The photographs were taken near the walking track from Nelly Bay to Horseshoe Bay, and the plants were growing in rocky ground. They are hardy plants, that can handle dry conditions and partial shade, but they do need well-drained soil.

The plant usually has an erect central stem that branches fairly close to the ground; but sometimes the central trunk becomes up to 3 m tall before branching. When this occurs, there is usually a somewhat tufted crown. The branches are fairly long, and ascending. The lower branches usually grow out from the trunk at an obtuse angle before starting to ascend. The branches are prickly, the prickles short, sharp and plentiful.

The leaves are simple, unlobed lanceolate or 3-lobed, with serrate margins – there is quite a lot of variation in leaf shape. They grow up to about 15 cm long by 10 cm wide. Both sides of the leaves are prickly, like the branches.

Most of the flowers are terminal or sub-terminal. They are large flowers, about 10 cm across, but can be as much as 15 cm in diameter. Like most hibiscus flowers, they are short-lived, lasting less than a day, from about mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Flowering usually takes place from about August to December. The indigenous inhabitants eat the roots of the plant, and also the young shoots, and make rope from the bark.


Photographs taken on the Nelly Bay to Horsehoe Bay walking track, 2013
Page last updated 13th January 2019