RSWLiving - - Explore - Source: The Trop­i­cal Hi­bis­cus, Labelle

The trop­i­cal hi­bis­cus be­longs to the Mal­vaceae or mal­low fam­ily. Other rel­a­tives are the rose-of-sharon (shrubby althea), the hardy hi­bis­cus grown in the North, okra, cot­ton, the Con­fed­er­ate rose, hol­ly­hock and oth­ers. Some types have been used to make dyes, and oth­ers have been used as food.

Orig­i­nat­ing in Asia and the Pa­cific is­lands, hi­bis­cus is the na­tional flower of Malaysia. It is closely as­so­ci­ated with Hawaii; the state’s flower is a na­tive species of hi­bis­cus, H. brack­en­ridgei.

Real in­ter­est in the hi­bis­cus in Hawaii de­vel­oped around the end of the 19th cen­tury. Some plants prob­a­bly came from China and were crossed with na­tive Hawai­ian species. In­ter­est spread to the U.S. main­land, and Florida be­came a cen­ter for this in­ter­est― the Rea­soner fam­ily be­ing early pi­o­neers. The Amer­i­can Hi­bis­cus So­ci­ety was formed in 1950 with Nor­man Rea­soner as its first pres­i­dent.

Or­ga­nized in­ter­est in hi­bis­cus is also strong in Aus­tralia. It is thought that the plant was in­tro­duced there in the early 1800s, but real in­ter­est was sparked later when 30 plants were im­ported from In­dia for use in the land­scap­ing of Bris­bane by its city coun­cil. The north­ern parts of New Zealand also be­came in­volved in hi­bis­cus cul­ture.

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