What is Hibiscus?

   Hibiscus is the name of a group of plants that belong to the mallow family. The swamp rose mallow grows wild in marshes in the eastern United States, sometimes growing 7 feet high. It has white or pink flowers 4 to 7 inches across. The rose of Sharon, or shrubby althea, is native to Asia. But United States gardeners often cultivate it as a small tree or shrub for borders and background. Its flowers resemble those of the hollyhock. The tropical Chinese hibiscus has striking blossoms that the Chinese sometimes use to stain their eyebrows and teeth. Okra is a summer annual hibiscus of the vegetable garden. Its sticky pods are used in soups and stews. Other kinds of hibiscus are grown for their fiber.
   Scientific Classification. Hibiscus belong to the mallow family, Malvaceae. They make up the genus Hibiscus. The swamp rose mallow is species H. moscheutos. The rose of Sharon is H. syriacus. The Chinese hibiscus is H. rosasinensis. Okra is H. esculentus.