Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hibiscus liliiflorus

Hibiscus liliiflorus | Rodrigues Tree Hibiscus, Lily Flowered Hibiscus

The Mascarene Islands lie east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants, Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion have many native plant species that are either threatened or extinct. Almost extinct in the wild, Hibiscus liliiflorus was reduced to a single plant growing on the top of a mountain. This exquisite plant is one of the species used in the development of some of the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis hybrids we have today. Fortunately H. liliiflorus still survives in a few botanical gardens and private collections.

Reference: In the late 1970s, botanists had shown interest in a rare tree hibiscus (Hibiscus liliiflorus) growing on top of the highest mountain on Rodrigues. When Gerald Durrell went out to make a film, he discovered that it was being eaten up by goats. Money was given to fence it off from the goats, and forestry department workers were sent out to put up the fence. When the workers realized that they didn’t have enough fencng to go around the entire plant, they chopped off one of its large branches to make the hibiscus fit inside the fence. “They didn’t quite get it,” Wendy laments, shaking her head. “I saw the hibiscus in 1982, just after it had died.” She was given new hope, however, when she learned that a cutting taken from the plant had survived and was growing in a Catholic priest’s home on the island. “Again, when the plant was fenced, people went up and began taking bits of bark, branches, and also leaving money and putting little candles on the tree,” she recalls. “It became another magic tree. In 1982, when she went up with a forester to take a cutting, only remnants of the hibiscus remained, its fate sealed with wax from the candles placed on it and burnt in its honor. She stood there, staring at the remains, realizing nothing more could he done for it. As she contemplated the dead plant, the forester climbed over the fence and began picking up the change strewn around it. Then she recognized the second tragedy: “People were still throwing money in— these were poor people; they didn’t have ‘loose change’ to spare.

   Watching, from the Edge of Extinction
   By Beverly Peterson Stearns
   Published by Yale University Press, 2000

Historical Reference: Hibiscus Liliiflorus, Lily-Flowered Hibiscus.Malvaceae. This elegant plant, of which there are many varieties, was introduced a few years since by Mr. Barclay. It is necessary to preserve it in the stove; it grows freely, and flowers during the summer. The flowers are of a bright rosy lilac; it is necessary to preserve it in the stove, as it is a native of the Mauritius. It will increase readily by cuttings, and should be potted in loam and peat soil. Hibiscus, from ibis; a stork ; said to chew and inject a clyster.

   The Floricultural Cabinet, and Florists Magazine
   Published by Whitaker & Co., 1834

Historical Reference ―Hybids: A mule plant, derived from Hibiscus liliiflorus, whose flowers were fertilized by the pollen of Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis. The consequence is a production, very variable, indeed, as to the size and form both of leaves and flowers, and amply deserving a place in every collection of stove plants. The first I heard of this charming plant was from my often-mentioned friend and invaluable correspondent, Charles Telfair, Esq. of the Mauritius, to whom I am indebted for two beautiful drawings, from the pencil of Mrs.Telfair; from one of which, the engraving here given is made. These drawings were accompanied by a letter, with the following remarks upon them. "We think a sight of these drawings may induce our excellent friend Mr. Barclay to endeavour to cultivate and vary this beautiful shrub. The variety to be artificially produced is endless, especially in the colour:—the size of the flowers too is very great, and their brilliancy and delicate shading render them objects of great interest to cultivators. With us it grows almost to a tree: and the blossoms are upon it nearly at all seasons of the year." Plants were at the same time sent to Mr. Barclay at Bury Hill, who cultivates them most successfully, and has favoured me both with drawings and dried specimens. Sometimes the shape of the leaves is almost exactly as in H. Rosa-sinensis: at other times, and that very frequently, they are trifid, or tripartite, with the segments laciniated. The flowers are deep red, buff-coloured,and more frequently of a bright and delicate rose colour. The outer calyx, or involucre of De Candolle, is always more erect than in H. Rosa-sinensis: but the column of fructification is not so much declined.

   Curtis's botanical magazine
   By John Sims Published by s.n.,1829