The scarlet hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) is one of six species commonly found in Florida wetlands, and is probably the most commonly grown native ornamental hibiscus in the state. The one in our back yard is an interesting little story. It’s a perennial plant that is so hardy it can be mowed when it’s done flowering for the season. The stems/stalks are very long, over seven feet tall in the peat tub that it shares with our pond apple tree and some purple flag lilies, and they resemble bamboo in their lightness and stiffness.
The stems aren’t segmented like bamboo, but they are long, skinny, and rather rigid for their light weight (nowhere near as strong as bamboo, either, so perhaps the comparison isn’t very good after all). Other species of hibiscus (family Malvaceae) are as tall as small trees: H. tiliaceus can grow as high as 40 feet!
They’re a lot of fun when they’re flowering or preparing to flower, though:
They are obligate wetland species, but they do fine in a plain old “moist” location. And once they’re done flowering for the year, as long as they’re not in a peat-filled pond surrounded by rocks like mine, you can just mow right over ’em and wait for them to come back next year! Word of warning, though: Roger Hammer points out that, due to the deeply lobed 5-part leaves, when this plant is not in flower it can resemble marijuana!
Hammer, R. (2002). Everglades Wildflowers. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot.
Tobe, J.D. et al. (1998). Florida Wetland Plants: An Identification Manual. Tallahassee: Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Wunderlin, R.P. & Hansen B.F. (2003). Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida, 2nd ed. Gainesville: UP of Florida.