12.20.2010

Hibiscus trionum

I spent way too many hours trying to figure out what this flower is. It is a relic of Nellie's Garden, a late self-seeder that pops out of the soil when it's good and ready, 'round about July.


I have only ever seen it in my garden, so I thought it was Rare and Wonderful. Then I saw it in seedling form in one of those dirty sidewalk-tree-holes in Wilkes-Barre, where it had somehow persevered past dog crap and cigarette ash. It was alive, which is more than I can say for the tree that had once been there.


This city street sighting deflated my hopes of Rare, but confirmed Wonderful. Anything that is fertilized, instead of fried, by the fluid that was once malt liquor and is now pee, is Wonderful.


What I like about this flower is a lot of things: It has pyramidal lanterns. It is a really dark, shiny, healthy green with unusual long, lobed leaves and sharp, angular stems. You can scamper out first thing in the morning to see it, and the bud is a tight, white scroll. You can fix your coffee and sit on the bottom step and watch it, and hang out the laundry and load up the truck and walk the dog, and there it sits. You can sigh and flick it, to inspire activity, but... nothing. You can think it is a little bit more unfurled, which it isn't, and go inside to get your this-and-that so you can leave for the day, and then when you come back out, you see: you missed it.


Which is why it is called flower-of-an-hour. Like I said, I spent forever trying to figure out what it is, and finally in exasperation posted a question at the Dave's Garden ID forum, and someone replied with the correct answer in, like, 7.5 seconds.

On further reading, the following words and phrases have been used to describe Hibiscus trionum in the Dave's Garden PlantFiles: terrible, evil, noxious, bugger, scraggly, Attila the Hun, invasive, kill them early and kill them often. If that isn't enough to knot the little bastards onto my heartstrings forever, I don't know what is.

4 comments:

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Awww, an underdog, and a beautiful one at that! I love the online universe. It's spared a number of hair-follicles in recent months, attempting to ID plants or fungi. I try on my own, like you, but when all else fails, it does sometimes help to ask the ethereal font of internet knowledge :P Merry Christmas Zoe!

Melissa Whalen Haertsch said...

I should trade you some seeds of that for this thing that comes from Grandma Evie's hay fields (via the manure) and gets like 6 feet tall with okra-looking flowers! Left a bunch of old botanists standing in the driveway scratching their heads.

Ellen Zachos said...

You have made me want this plant. If you ever get seed, let me know and I'll test it against Bambi!

Eliza @ Appalachian Feet said...

I tend to be one of those gardeners that balks at a plant that can take over the neighborhood in a season but your description of this bizarre hibiscus won me over, anyway! I love the common name, so theatrical!