Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lindenleaf Rosemallow/Sleepy Hibiscus - Hibiscus furcellatus


Sleepy hibiscus (Hibiscus furcellatus) is a tropical species that occurs naturally in Florida only along the eastern coastal counties, from Brevard to Broward County - with an inland population in Highlands County. It occurs widely in more tropical locations, however, throughout much of the West Indies and parts of South America and is considered native in Hawaii. It's range seems to be largely restricted by winter freezes.
Sleepy hibiscus is a lanky perennial that can reach 6 feet at maturity. As a tropical species, it is evergreen and can bloom much of the year. The photos above were taken in mid-July at my Pinellas County residence. Other writers report that it becomes shrubby, as wide as it can be tall, but the plants I've observed have been rather thin with multiple side branches. The leaves are shallowly lobed, more like a maple than a linden (basswood - Tilia spp.), and somewhat rough to the touch.  The stems also have stiff hairs.
Sleepy hibiscus is so named because of its nodding, half-open blooms. They are bright pink in color with a deeper rose-colored throat. Each is 6-8 inches long and quite showy. Their "sleepy" aspect makes it somewhat difficult for butterflies to pollinate them, but they are visited by bees - and hummingbirds in parts of their range.
Sleepy hibiscus is most common to the upper edges of south Florida pinelands and wetlands where they are shallowly inundated during the wetter months. Though not as needy of standing water as many of our native hibiscus, it prefers moisture - especially during the hotter months. It is reported to fare reasonably well in typical upland landscape conditions, but I have found it to need supplemental water if the soils become dry.
Regrettably, this species is only rarely offered for sale in Florida.  Currently, no nursery affiliated with FANN- the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, is propagating it and I have not seen it offered for at least a decade.  The plants above, were grown from seed collected several years ago in a wet flatwoods in St Lucie County. We hope to be able to propagate it from the seed of our plants this fall to make it available in Spring 2015. Inquire if interested.

6 comments:

  1. Hi, have you been able to propagate this hibiscus for sale in the spring? does it occur naturally in Indian River county?

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    1. I purchased this plant at our Nature Coast Chapter of FNPS plant sale in Pasco County about 2 years ago and it is doing well in my yard. A neighbor propagated it from seeds from my plant. A chapter member directed my to this site as I had googled Sleepy Hibiscus and Turk's Cap was shown. Now I can accurately identify my plant during my Native Plant presentation.

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    2. I have been growing this plant finally from seed - 2 years after first finding it in Indian River County. I have ~2 dozen seedlings that are ready - just sowed this year's seed and hope to have more for next year.

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    3. I have been growing this plant finally from seed - 2 years after first finding it in Indian River County. I have ~2 dozen seedlings that are ready - just sowed this year's seed and hope to have more for next year.

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    5. As for the Anonymous person above who purchased this plant at a NAture Coast FNPS meeting - make sure what you have is not saltmarsh mallow - Kosteletzkya. It also has a pink funnel-form bloom, but is widely propagated unlike H. furcellatus. The bloom in saltmarsh mallow is only ~1-1.5 inches long while H. furcellatus is 4-6 inches.

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