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Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae. The genus is quite large, comprising several hundred species that are native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. Member species are renowned for their large, showy flowers and those species are commonly known simply as "hibiscus", or less widely known as rose mallow. Other names include hardy hibiscus, rose of sharon, and tropical hibiscus.
The genus includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, as well as woody shrubs and small trees. The generic name is derived from the Greek name ἰβίσκος (ibískos) which Pedanius Dioscorides gave to Althaea officinalis (c. 40–90 AD).
Several species are widely cultivated as ornamental plants, notably Hibiscus syriacus and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.
A tea made from hibiscus flowers is known by many names around the world and is served both hot and cold. The beverage is known for its red colour, tart flavour, and vitamin C content.
Description & appearance
The leaves are alternate, ovate to lanceolate, often with a toothed or lobed margin. The flowers are large, conspicuous, trumpet-shaped, with five or more petals, colour from white to pink, red, orange, peach, yellow or purple, and from 4–18 cm broad.
Flower colour in certain species, such as H. mutabilis and H. tiliaceus, changes with age. 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. It is of red and white colours. It is an example of complete flowers.
In temperate zones, probably the most commonly grown ornamental species is Hibiscus syriacus, the common garden hibiscus, also known in some areas as the "rose of Althea" or "rose of Sharon" (but not to be confused with the unrelated Hypericum calycinum, also called "rose of Sharon"). In tropical and subtropical areas, the Chinese hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis), with its many showy hybrids, is the most popular hibiscus.
Many species are grown for their showy flowers or used as landscape shrubs, and are used to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Hibiscus is a very hardy, versatile plant and in tropical conditions it can enhance the beauty of any garden. Being versatile it adapts itself easily to balcony gardens in crammed urban spaces and can be easily grown in pots as a creeper or even in hanging pots. It is a perennial and flowers through the year. As it comes in a variety of colors, it's a plant which can add vibrancy to any garden.
The only infestation that gardeners need to be vigilant about is mealybug. Mealybug infestations are easy to spot as it is clearly visible as a distinct white cottony infestation on buds, leaves or even stems. To protect the plant you need to trim away the infected part, spray with water, and apply an appropriate pesticide.
One species of Hibiscus, known as kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), is extensively used in paper-making.
The inner bark of the sea hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus), also called 'hau', is used in Polynesia for making rope, and the wood for making canoe floats. The ropes on the missionary ship Messenger of Peace were made of fibres from hibiscus trees.
The tea made of the calyces of Hibiscus sabdariffa is known by many names in many countries around the world and is served both hot and cold. The beverage is well known for its red colour, tartness and unique flavour. Additionally, it is highly nutritious because of its vitamin C content.
It is known as bissap in West Africa, "Gul e Khatmi" in Urdu
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