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Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L. 1753 ‘El Capitolio’ Sport of Sport (Peach)
pronounced: hy-BISS-kuss roh-suh-sy-NEN-siss
(Malvaceae — the mallow family)
common names: Poodle Hibiscus, Lion’s Tail Hibiscus
Hibiscus is the ancient Latin name for the marshmallow plant Athaea officinalis ,and was a transliteration from the Greek 'ιβισκος; rosa is Latin for ‘rose’, and sinensis means ‘of China’.
One of the most interesting cultivars of the Hibiscus is ‘El Capitolio’, thought to have been discovered in Cuba in the 1950s as a ‘sport’, i.e., a naturally occurring genetic anomaly. Its bloom is a bright scarlet red dense double with an interesting tuft of triple-layered petals (called a crest) developed from some of the flower parts at the end of the pistil. There are occasional white blotches on the petals, and some of the petals have jagged edges and may twist and contort. Some time later, the red sport produced a branch with peach coloured flowers, with a deep rose centre; hence the name ‘sport of sport’. There is another sport that blooms with a yellow flower. These flowers measure about 8 – 10 cm across.
These unique and beautiful flowers are borne prolifically on a strong sturdy bush with a vigorous upright growth habit, reaching about 2 m in height and a little less in width. The leaves are dark green on dark burgundy stems and have sharply serrated edges. The plant has a high degree of disease resistance, is drought-tolerant, and long-lived. It is easily trained into a tree standard, and may also be grown in pots.
In some parts of the ‘deep south’ of the US, ‘El Capitolio’ is found growing wild on abandoned ground.
It must, of course, be grown from cuttings, which may be from soft wood, semi-hardwood or hardwood. Nurserymen usually graft it, or air-layering may be used. It prefers to grow in full or part sun, and will tolerate acidic, neutral, or slightly alkaline soil, so long as it is well-drained. It does not have a great deal of salt tolerance.
Hibiscus is a food plant for a number of Lepidoptera caterpillars, including:
• the Diadem Hypolimnas misippus;
• the Hairy Leaf-eating Caterpillar Xanthodes congenita;
• the Common Red-eye Chaetocneme beata;
• the Cotton Leaf Roller Haritalodes derogata;
• the Cotton Tipworm Crocidosema plebejana;
• the Cornworm Pyroderces falcatella;
• the Cotton Looper Anomis flava;
• the moth Rusicada revocans; and
• the Transverse Moth Xanthodes transversa.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2014, 2015
Page last updated 19th March 2018