For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa: please click on the following links:
Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
Animals, Birds, Reptiles etc.: Animals, Birds, Fish and Crabs - Frogs - Lizards - Scorpions - Snails and Slugs - Snakes - Spiders - Tortoise, Turtles and Terrapins - Whipscorpions
Other photography: Aeroplanes - Cars and Bikes - Travel - Sunrise - Water drops/falls - Sudwala and Sterkfontein Caves etc.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sun Hibiscus (Hibiscus calyphyllus)

Family Malvaceae
I have so far come across about 5 plants with very similar flowers so please check the leaves before identifying.

This perennial shrub with its striking, large, lemon-yellow flowers and velvety leaves is perfect as an informal border or as a centrepiece in a small garden.


Hibiscus calyphyllus is a dense, perennial, rounded shrub; up to 3 m high; the leaves are large, up to 50 mm in diameter, light green, soft and velvety; the flowers are lemon-yellow, large, up to 100 mm in diameter, with a deep red to blackish centre; the fruit is a papery capsule that splits open to reveal hairy to hairless seeds. It is fairly fast growing and will flower repeatedly, the flowers lasting for a reasonable amount of time. Flowering time: all year round, but mainly from January to April.

 Distribution and habitat

The natural habitat of Hibiscus calyphyllus is open bush, thickets and forests, often also found along rivers. It is relatively frost tolerant, requires a moderate amount of water and prefers warm to cooler areas. Natural distribution stretches from the Eastern Cape in South Africa to tropical East Africa and Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands. The plant has also been seen growing in the following regions in the USA : Lafayette, Tennessee ; Austin, Bryan, and San Antonio in Texas. It is also said to have naturalized in Hawaii.

 Derivation of name and historical aspects

The name Hibiscus is derived from the Greek word for marshmallow.

Hibiscus, also known as rosemallow, is a large genus of about 200-220 species belonging to the Malvaceae family, which includes members such as cocoa, cotton, okra, baobab and durian. It is native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world.

About 59 species of Hibiscus occur in South Africa. They range from shrubs and trees to highly aromatic herbs. Although many Hibiscus species worldwide are popular garden plants, most of those grown in gardens are not indigenous to South Africa. The popular Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and its hybrids which can be seen in many South African gardens, actually originates in China.


The pollen in the large flowers attracts insect pollinators such as butterflies, which in turn will lure insectivorous birds such as barbets, robins and flycatchers to the garden.

Certain species of moth and butterfly larvae are known to feed on various Hibiscus species. This includes the Arrow Sphinx moth ( Lophostethus dumolinii) and Koppie Charaxes (Charaxes jasius saturnus) butterfly.

 Uses and cultural aspects

In addition to being a popular garden subject, Hibiscus calyphyllus is apparently also a source of food in the Okavango Delta, where the flowers are cooked and eaten when there is a shortage of food.

Hibiscus species across the world are used for many things ranging from ornamental garden plants to paper-making ( Hibiscus cannabinus ). In the Caribbean, Hibiscus sabdariffa is used to produce herbal teas, jams and is also eaten as a vegetable. In the Hindu religion, Hibiscus plays a significant role as an offering to the Goddess Kali and Lord Ganesha.