Hibiscus calyphyllus, Sun hibiscus, lemon-yellow rosemallow
Hibiscus calyphyllus flowers are bright sulphur yellow with a deep maroon centre.
Hibiscus calyphyllus occurs naturally from southern East Africa up the East African coast to Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen. Hibiscus calyphyllus also occurs in tropical Central Africa, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands.
The natural habitat of Hibiscus calyphyllus is open bush, thickets and forest edges where it is often found along rivers.
Hibiscus calyphyllus is a local medium sized shrub that has large, bright green, soft and velvety leaves, giving it a lush tropical appearance with 12 cm flowers which are bright sulphur yellow with a deep maroon centre.
Hibiscus calyphyllus grows to 1-1.5 meters tall and is often prostrate and straggly in the wild.
Hibiscus calyphyllus is a very rewarding showy garden plant for both the exotic tropical garden as well as in the indigenous garden that I have grown in my own gardens in Durban for at least the last 30 years. Unfortunately as is the case with so many of our magnificent local plants it is still hardly known and grown in South African gardens although it is very well known and widely grown garden ornamental throughout the tropics and subtropics.
Hibiscus calyphyllus has been in cultivation abroad for a long time having been first offered for sale in England in 1883 under the name Hibiscus chrysanthus with Port Natal, Cape Colony identified as the source. In addition Hibiscus calyphyllus seeds were sold in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century under the name Hibiscus Giant Yellow.
Hibiscus calyphyllus has large, bright green, soft and velvety leaves
Hibiscus calyphyllus grows best in fully sun to light shade. Hibiscus calyphyllus is a relatively fast-growing plant, providing that it is planted in fertile, rich and well-drained soil well enriched with organic material. The soil pH should range from mildly acidic to neutral.
Although Hibiscus calyphyllus is very drought resistant and can grow under very dry conditions, to do well in the garden it needs a moderate amount of water on a regular basis.
In cultivation it is good cultural practice to prune Hibiscus calyphyllus back after the main flowering season to encourage bushiness, light pruning during the summer growing period encourages flowering.
In South Africa the leaves of Hibiscus calyphyllus have been traditionally used as toilet paper which could be a good thing to remember when hiking out in the bush.
In East Africa, the leaves of Hibiscus calyphyllus are eaten as a vegetable
and in the Okavango Delta the flowers are cooked and eaten.