Australia has a number of plants that are commonly called Native Hibiscus so it is natural that a little confusion occurs over which plant is which.
Hibiscus splendens was one of the first to be discovered, and with masses of flowers in spring it is indeed a wonderful example, however a number of species claim the name of ‘Native Hibiscus’.
Some are evergreen shrubs to small trees, others such as the brilliant red flowering Abelmoschus moschatus subsp. tuberosus is more of a perennial that thrives in the tropical areas of Queensland and The Northern Territory and although known as the ‘Mash Mallow’ it does have hibiscus like flowers.
Hibiscus sturtii with white to pink flowers is found across New South Wales.
Lagunaria patersonii is an evergreen tree, primrose colored hibiscus like flowers, from Norfolk Island and Queensland.
So when we broadly call a plant ‘Native Hibiscus’ we may well be better to use the botanical name, as these plants differ greatly.
The five major species that are referred to as Native Hibiscus are:
- Alyogyne heugelii This is perhaps the most common form, purple flowers and easy to grow in all but cold mountain and tropical conditions
- Hibiscus divaricatus A species from Queensland, The Northern Territory and Western Australia
- Hibiscus heterophyllus Also known as ‘Rosella’, found along the coast of New South Wales to tropical Queensland. Not as hardy as Alygone in cooler climates. Look for grafted varieties that use rootstock from plant in the southern natural range. Flowers range from white through to pink and yellow
- Hibiscus splendens Also known as the native hollyhock, this is another species from warmer climates, Northern New south Wales to Queensland
- Hibiscus tiliaceus This is a tropical to sub tropical species with large foliage, also known as the ‘Cotton Tree’. Flowers are commonly yellow.