Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Halberdleaf rosemallow

with 31 comments

Hibiscus laevis Flower 2619

Click for greater clarity and size.

The halberdleaf rosemallow, Hibiscus laevis, is one of the showiest flowers in the United States. It grows in wet places across much of the eastern part of the country, reaching westward into east Texas but not quite making it to Austin—at least not natively, although people here sometimes plant it around ponds, where I’ve seen it thrive. You can check locations for this wildflower on the state-clickable map at the USDA website.

Today’s post is the second in a series showing pictures I took at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on July 23, and the first in these pages ever to feature this species.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 17, 2013 at 6:11 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Magnifique Steve, j’ai un hibiscus dans mon jardin mais je ne connais pas son nom scientifique, il va falloir que je le prenne en photo pour voir si celà ressemble à celui-ci..


    August 17, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    • Bonjour, Chantal. Il y a des centaines d’espèces d’hibiscus, alors il est peu probable que le tien soit de la même espèce, mais comme pas mal de plantes américaines ont éte importées en Europe, il est toujours possible.

      Le mot ressemble que tu as employé me fit me souvenir d’un vers d’Apollinaire de “La Chanson du Mal-aimé”:

      Un soir de demi-brume à Londres
      Un voyou qui ressemblait à
      Mon amour vint à ma rencontre
      Et le regard qu’il me jeta
      Me fit baisser les yeux de honte

      Faut dire pourtant que je n’ai pas baissé les yeux de honte.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    • Encore une chose: le mot latin hibiscum venait peut-être du gaulois. Vive la France!

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2013 at 7:43 AM

  2. I will need to get help from Google Translate for the comments above. My high school French does me no good.

    I’ve seen a lot of flowering hibiscus around here lately. We have a bright red variety in the back yard. It always gets crowded by the raspberry canes in a nearby patch. Maybe I should move them.

    Beautiful picture, Steven.

    Jim in IA

    August 17, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    • Chantal commented that she has a hibiscus in her garden but doesn’t know its scientific name. I answered with the observation that there are hundreds of species of hibiscus, so it’s unlikely that hers would turn out to be the same, but on the other hand lots of American species have been imported into Europe.

      Chantal happened to use the word resemble, and it reminded my quirky mind of an occurrence of that word in a poem by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire. In my follow-up comment I said that the Latin word hibiscum might have come from Gaulish, which was the main Celtic language spoken in what is now France before the Romans imposed their language.

      Your mention of canes reminds me that in central Texas the most common species of that type is the southern dewberry, which can form large briar patches


      but has pretty little flowers:


      I hope you get some sweet snacks from your raspberries.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2013 at 8:12 AM

      • Thank you for the translation. I would have eventually gotten the gist of it through Translate. But, this helped very much.

        We did get sweet snacks from our patches. First in the season is the black raspberry crop. A couple of weeks later come the blackberries. They are just now ending. We’ve had them on cereal, in our homemade yogurts, and on ice cream. Had our fill this year. Last year was zero with the bad drought.

        Jim in IA

        August 17, 2013 at 8:19 AM

  3. Lovely shot of a lovely Hibiscus, Steve. It looks great against the sky which I think has become your trademark. 🙂

    Steve Gingold

    August 17, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    • Yes, I’ve trademarked it, and I expect royalties from any of the rest of you who show the sky in your photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2013 at 3:40 PM

  4. I remember red hibiscus flowers from my childhood and how I kept wondering at their lack of scent 🙂 Ahh good times.
    We call them China Roses in Pakistan.

    Syeda Maham

    August 17, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    • Thanks for letting us know that in Pakistan you refer to hibiscus as a China rose. So much depends on where we live, doesn’t it? When a certain fruit was introduced to Europe from farther east, the Romans called it persicum, meaning ‘from Persia.’ That Latin word eventually became English peach.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2013 at 3:44 PM

  5. I have three in my garden in the Pacific Northwest, they are in bloom right now and I absolutely love them…great photo, thank you for sharing.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    August 17, 2013 at 1:09 PM

  6. what a great angle to shoot this flower from. The blue sky really brings out the shape of the flower

    • I do like to isolate plants against a blue sky, either solid or with wispy clouds. Because this white flower was so dazzling in the sunlight, and because a camera’s sensor can record only a limited range of intensities, the sky came out looking darker than it looked to my eyes at the time.

      As for the angle, in this case it has the virtue of revealing some of the bottom surfaces of the petals, even if you see primarily the top surfaces.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2013 at 3:50 PM

  7. Hi there – I live in southern Indiana but about 1/2 mile from my home there is a swamplike area where about 200 of these halberdleaf flowers bloom every summer. I’m not sure how many actual plants there are, they are crowded together, but there are a lot of them! Most are white but some are a rosy pink, all with red centers. In my garden at home I have 6 “parasol” type hibiscus which are getting old, only 2 are still doing well, about 5 feet tall and as wide…


    August 18, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    • How nice that you have access to so many of these halberdleaf hibiscus close to home. I’ve never seen a group with anywhere close to as many of those flowers as you describe. Books that I’ve read talk about pink flowers, but I think I’ve seen only the white ones. Maybe you can get some good pictures of all of them one of these days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2013 at 7:18 AM

      • I could have done just that, last year when they were especially beautiful I thought…must have been the bad drought that we had here, I guess they liked it! And they must have liked the intense heat also. This year has been very different, a lot of rain thru June, then dry weather but below-average temps overall. The “hibiscus swamp” doesn’t look quite the same, but it varies from year to year. Anyway in 2012 I wasn’t certain just how to get a wide-view photo of the whole mass that would look good. So I climbed down into the hollow and took individual shots which you can see here:



        August 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM

        • Thanks for the link to those pictures. Now I can say I’ve seen the pink version of these flowers.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 18, 2013 at 12:32 PM

  8. I’ve always thought of hibiscus as a tropical plant, so I was surprised to see this one’s range. A little exploration revealed that the so-called “hardy hibiscus” sold by some nurseries also is a perennial through the range shown in the map you linked. Even better, it comes in a whole range of colors that have been hybridized from this plant.

    I suspect I’ve seen this and assumed it was a tropical hibiscus. I’m thinking it might pot up nicely as a patio plant and do better than the more exotic tropical varieties.


    August 18, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    • I was likewise surprised by the northern range of this species. Some plants are clearly hardier than they look, but I suspect the flowering season for this mallow is a lot shorter up north than it is in central Texas. Because this species is native in your coastal part of Texas, I’d encourage you to experiment with it, although the only ones I’ve seen have been right alongside a pond, so I don’t know if you’d have success in a pot.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2013 at 12:29 PM

  9. It doesn’t happen very often but my hibiscus plants are flowering in the garden just now synchronising with the ones in Texas; mine are Hibiscus syriacus. We also have the wild mallow Althaea officinalis flowering nearby which is called Guimauve and is the plant from which the original marshmallow was made.


    August 18, 2013 at 3:10 PM

  10. This has been a superb year for these plants this year. Around here they are blooming like crazy!


    August 19, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    • How nice that you’ve got so many of them going crazy in southeast Pennsylvania, David. For you they’re native, while here in Austin they’re almost native.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2013 at 3:29 PM

  11. I’m really interested In shooting some of these wild hibiscus. I saw the red ones in FL but I was blogging about birds then.

    Maria F.

    October 2, 2015 at 1:19 PM

  12. […] From today’s date in 2018 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center comes this opening bud of Hibiscus laevis, known as smooth rose mallow or halberd-leaved rose mallow. If you’re curious about the flower this kind of bud will open up into, you can check out a post from 2013. […]

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