Between the summer of 1959 and the late spring of 1961 my family lived in the USA. About a year and a half of this time period was spent in Lantana, Florida. I was ten years old and I was not happy. I had been uprooted. All my friends were left behind. I was learning a new language. I did not know the ways of the foreign country. My parents had not been as helpful as I would have liked for they were themselves trying to adjust to a new life. My brother was only three years old and he was too young to share my feelings.
Red hibiscus and fern
Lantana, where I saw hibiscus for the first time is supposed to be a marvelous place with an agreeable climate and an easy going life style. I did not think so. This is why hibiscus is not a happy flower for me. Each time I see a hibiscus shrub I remember my early sadness.
Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvaceae. Several hundred species of the genus are native to temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. It is probably the most popular and widely planted shrub of the tropics.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, known colloquially as Chinese hibiscus, China rose, Hawaiian hibiscus is a species native to East Asia.
Hibiscus flowers are large, from 4-18 cm broad, trumpet- shaped, with five or more petals. Their color ranges from white to pink, red, orange, purple and yellow. The fruit is a dry five-lobed capsule, containing several seeds in each lobe, which are released when the capsule dehisces (splits open) at maturity.
This colorful shrub has been grown in Florida for many years. It was introduced to Florida from China by way of the South Pacific and Hawaii. It is Hawaii’s state flower. Only in the southern half of Florida hibiscus is an evergreen shrub. It requires direct sunlight at least half a day and temperatures near the freezing point will easily kill it.
I have read about women expressing themselves through flowers in parts of the world. In Hawaii women wear a hibiscus behind the ear. If it is behind their left ear it means they are married. If it is behind the right ear it signals that they are single and interested in finding someone.
Most hibiscus varieties have one-day flowers, which typically open early in the morning and wilt late that afternoon. Flowers of a few varieties remain open for two days. Most hibiscus are odorless, but a few varieties are slightly fragrant.
Hibiscus shrubs can grow to be very lush and pretty. Coincidentally, the ones in my photographs depict my mental state at the time I first saw this plant.
April 1961, Florida