Rose of Sharon – Hibiscus

In the Bible,  the Song of Solomon 2:1 mentions the Rose of Sharon. Probably lost somewhere in translation from Hebrew to the King James Version as no one really knows what plant the rose of sharon actually refers to. Sharon, is an actual place name, somewhere in the plains of Palestine.  Although the Rose of Sharon is generally acknowledged to be a crocus, so a tulip is a more accurate representation.  For Christians, the Rose of Sharon symbolises love, namely divine love.    Modern usage of the name Rose of Sharon, I’m surprised to find out from Wiki, refers to our very common Hibiscus.  Well, not so common.  I am very fond of the hibiscus plant. It comes in different colors and shapes.  Not difficult to take care of.  Prone to diseases, so just prune it down when the inevitable happens.

One day, I was admiring a purple hibiscus, and the flowershop aunty kept referring to it as the “Big red flower”, which incidentally is the name of hibiscus in mandarin. It blooms beautifully when the weather is hot. Lasts for a day or two. Prune it, and blooms again a month later. While native to Asia and the Pacific Islands, is grown all over the world and comes in over 200 species. From several accounts, the hibiscus probably originated in China. 

For Chinese, the hibiscus, or China rose, holds various meanings. Some Chinese identify the hibiscus with wealth and fame, while others associate its delicate flower with a young female. In South Korea, the hibiscus, or mugunghwa, is the national symbol seen on national emblems. Despite the flower’s fragility, it means “immortality.” In weddings, it represent the immortality of love, and in war, it symbolizes the invincibility of military warriors. In the Japanese language of flowers known as hanakotoba, the hibiscus means “gentle.” It is given in honor of visitors and represents the friendly customs of the Japanese. Malaysia, the Chinese hibiscus, or bunga raya, is the nation’s national flower and means “celebration flower.” It represents life and courage and is seen on the nation’s currency. In Hawaii, Women wear the bloom behind ears. Behind the left ear, a hibiscus represents the woman as a desirous lover; behind the right ear, the woman is taken; behind both ears, the woman is taken but prefers another lover. Hmmm, not sure if its different whether you’re right handed or left handed. I’m told a similar story about guys wearing ear-rings either on the right or left ear lobe. I was quite surprised when my friend J. chose to wear a ear-stud on his ear-lobe on his wedding day. His bride didnt seem to mind. Sooo, back to hibiscus. The hibiscus flower is also commonly seen as a tribal tattoo. It represents “old royalty,” is meant to bring power and respect and is a sign of hospitality. In Egypt, the hibiscus is known by the Arabic name “karkade” after the roselle species. Dating back to ancient Egypt, it is used for medicinal purposes and as a ruby red flavorful tea or punch known for its calming effect. During my recent trip to Cairo in Dec 2010, (just before the riots broke out), I was surprised to be served hibiscus tea wherever I went, together with the typical mint tea or soft drink. It didnt seem to be the case in Summer of 1994, when I was last in Cairo, where ultra-sweet mint tea seemed the ubiquitous summer drink to cool down the heat. Pictures of my Hibiscus coming up. 🙂

Pretty in red from my garden

7 thoughts on “Rose of Sharon – Hibiscus

  1. I have never seen a purple hibiscus till now, it’s lovely.

    Years ago there was hibiscus of a very delicate pink growing on the slopes along the NUS central library- Arts Faculty route. They are long gone, and I haven’t seen that delicate pink since either.

  2. We love the yellow with red center and would like to add as a “tree” to our front flower beds. What is the name and/or info we need to find at the local nursery? A Google search for “yellow rose of Sharon” returns St John’s Wort, which is not what we want.

    • This yellow Hibiscus is rosa chinensis cv Madonna or even yellow freedom in the US or hibiscus sp Sunshine in Malaysia. Some blogs even claim that they are native to Hawaii. But if you examine the scientific name rosa sinensis or chinensis, it was first discovered in China.

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