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News Story
Updated: 08/30/2013 08:00:23AM

The strangest hibiscus of all

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Bill Dunson

PHOTO PROVIDED BY BILL DUNSON

A humming bird and a rose of a Sharon hibiscus.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY BILL DUNSON

The "flower of an hour” is a hibiscus that blooms for only a few hours.

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I have to admit that I am a huge fan of hibiscus flowers. My first love was the rose mallow which provides a spectacular flower display in coastal marshes of Maryland and Virginia. Later I became aware of the amazing variety of hybrids and cultivars of the tropical Hibiscus rosa-sinensis in Florida. Then there are various other members of the mallow family which are remarkable on their own, such as rose of Sharon, hollyhock, cotton and okra.

But for those of us who are committed to making our gardens maximally receptive to butterflies and other native pollinators, there is a dark side to hibiscus culture. Many of the most commonly grown species do not seem to be very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Indeed it appears that the most showy flowers of both cold-hardy and tropical varieties are mainly attractive to bumblebees because of the pollen they supply. Some species such as rose of Sharon and Turk’s cap do also offer nectar and will attract hummingbirds, orchard orioles and bumblebees.

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