I always thought of hibiscus as a tropical flower. It's the kind of thing you expect to see printed on Hawaiian shirts, or tucked behind a hula dancer's ear. But we've got native hibiscus right here in DC.
Unlike the bright red tropical hibiscus, our native hibiscus has five petals that can range in color from light pink to white, with a darker magenta center. Protruding from that dark center is a showy yellow set of reproductive parts: a tube covered in pollen-producing stamens, with five pollen-collecting pistils branching out on the end. The flowers can be six inches across, on stalks that reach 5 (or more) feet high. It's quite an impressive plant.
The genus Hibiscus also includes the imported Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), which many people have in their yards. But the flowers of Rose of Sharon don't get nearly as large as our native hibiscus -- maybe 4 inches across as opposed to 6 inches or more.
In the wild: Rose mallow likes wetlands. We've seen it growing at Roosevelt Island, and there's lots of it at Jug Bay. I'm sure it's in other spots as well.
In your yard: We're growing rose mallow that we started from wild-collected seed in our raingarden and in our dry backyard; it seems to be thriving in both locations. So, even though it grows in marshy areas naturally, it doesn't seem to require them. It does need at least several hours of sun to bloom well, though.
Where have you seen hibiscus growing? Leave us a comment!