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Featured Plant

Malvaviscus arboreus var. arboreus


Scientific Name: Malvaviscus arboreus var. arboreus

Common Names: Sleeping Hibiscus

Family: Malvaceae

Plant Type: Shrub to small tree

Environment: Best in full sun but will tolerate light shade

Bloom: Red closed flowers appear in abundance in fall and winter

Uses: Attractive to birds, butterflies and bees; effective as a thick shrub if carefully pruned

Other: This plant self sows easily; deadhead for best look and to prevent volunteer seedlings. Other common names include turk's cap, wax mallow and lipstick hibiscus



Malvaviscus arboreus var. arboreus

Malvaviscus arboreus is native to the subtropical areas of southern Texas and Florida, as well as the cloud forests of Mexico and Colombia. It is a rangy, handsome shrub, reaching eight to ten feet, with flowers borne in the axils of its soft velvety leaves. The scarlet petals are tightly wrapped around a central column comprised of the pistil and stamens. This column protrudes beyond the petals which remain closed, giving way to the common name, "sleeping hibiscus," an apt description. Even though both are members of the Malvaceae family, the petals of Malvaviscus always remain tightly closed whereas those of the more commonly known hibiscus flare open with wide displays of brilliant colors.

Like many plants that grow in cloud forest habitats, Malavaviscus blooms in fall and winter, when the tropical rains are over. It is drought tolerant once established, and can be invasive if left uncontrolled.

San Francisco Botanical Garden, though not subtropical, does well with many cloud forest plants. Our foggy days and temperate climate in winter and summer fill the needs of many native plants from the high elevation mountains of Central and South America and Southeast Asia, where cloud forest habitats are found. This species of Malvaviscus was collected from seed in Chiapas, Mexico, by Dr. Dennis Breedlove, renowned curator in the Botany Department at the California Academy of Sciences. We owe a lot to Dr. Breedlove as most of our current collection of Mesoamerican Cloud Forest plants have been grown from hundreds of seeds and cuttings obtained from his many collecting expeditions to Chiapas.


Photos by Joanne Taylor; text by Kathy McNeil; profile by David Kruse-Pickler


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