18 December, 2013

Buttery yellow Hibiscus tiliaceus

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

When my old camera died, I was after the luminous buttery yellow flowers of Hibiscus tiliaceus. Years later our small tree has rediscovered flowering.

Hibiscus tiliaceus bud in our Elephant's Eye garden

Chosen for the leaves with Pam @ Digging. A perfect heart. With a bonus discovered in my garden – the leaves fade to autumn glory year round. The leaf buds come out in a velvety deep burgundy. Growing into glowing green hearts. As the leaves mature the green slowly fades, and the leaves turn. Yellow, gold, amber, orange, red – the darker veins snaking across the paler surface.

Glowing green leaf heart of Hibiscus tiliaceus

I’ve been tempted to pick the leaves, but they insist on being admired ON the plant.

Hibiscus tiliaceus leaves doing 'autumn' glory

When we gardened in Camps Bay, we went each year to Kirstenbosch for the sale of indigenous plants. Then, it was the only source. Passing years have brought us nurseries like Van den Berg Garden Village who specialise in indigenous trees. This loose shrub is a souvenir of the 2006 Kirstenbosch sale. There are 3 cuttings in pots for the next garden. If I don’t succeed, I’ll track down a new plant – but I must have those hearts on fire in my garden.

Hibiscus tiliaceus loose shrub 2 metres high

I’ve wondered - why there were no flowers for years. For Plant Postings garden lessons learned, mine is to go back and read the instructions. Full sun? Yes! Wet feet? Ah, expecting to grow on the shore of a lagoon.

turning colour on a Hibiscus tiliaceus flower

Yesterday, today and tomorrow in Hibiscus tiliaceus flowers

I’ve captured yesterday’s memory in crumpled russet, and hope for tomorrow in lime green – with a single flower over one morning and afternoon. As with the turning leaves, the flowers begin in a clear buttery yellow with a deep burgundy heart. As the day passes the burgundy gently spreads veins across the petals. I watched while the petals drifted to glowing apricot, burnt orange, then flaming russet.

buttery yellow lights up Hibiscus tiliaceus

hearts of Hibiscus tiliaceus flowers

Wild cotton tree, sea or lagoon hibiscus, in the Malvaceae. It grows along the coast from the Eastern Cape to Zululand and extends into the tropics where it is widespread along the sea shore on margins of watercourses or in tidal zone thickets. It fringes estuaries and coastal areas along rivers and lagoons. 59 species of Hibiscus in southern Africa. Resemblance to the related Tilia (lime and linden trees) gives tiliaceus. The branches are used as living fence posts and fish kraals. The fibre from the bark makes excellent rope used in hut building. No frost. Would prefer it humid and sub-tropical - from PlantZAfrica

Wild Singapore says - The sea hibiscus has been renamed as Talipariti tiliaceum based on DNA studies, but the old name Hibiscus tiliaceus is still widely used.

Dozen for Diana flowers (one repeated for the non-flowering Searsia tree)

Sea hibiscus completes my Dozen for the still virtual garden in False Bay. Your December plant? Denise Noniwa in Holland winnowed her choice down to black bamboo - exotic and elegant. Beth @ PlantPostings has an agave from Utah about to endure winter on a covered screened porch. Donna @ GardensEyeView joins me with rosemary for remembrance. ‘Rosemary grows wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and in Australia sprigs are worn on Anzac Day to signify remembrance.’ I remember Nic and my mother.

Dozen for Diana leaves

Next year I will harvest some posts from Elephant's Eye, edit and bring them to Elephant's Eye on False Bay. Ultimately leaving the original blog to tell the focused story of that once was garden and life in Porterville.

Pictures by Diana Studer 
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay

(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red. Those are my links.
To read or leave comments,
either click the word Comments below, or click this post's title)


  1. I love your hibiscus Diana. It reminds me of the flower of the okra vegetable....the yellow with the dark center is so lovely. I already have my idea for next years dozen!

    1. glad to have inspired you. So much easier to write blog posts when the theme unrolls in your mind.

      I hope next year ... I will be able to blog about the treasures I find in the new garden. First on the list will be the New Zealand Christmas tree, pohutakawa, a reminder of my father's home. Star jasmine. Commonorgarden purple buddleja.

  2. Those heart-shaped leaves are telling you the garden loves you. :-) Happy holidays to you, Diana!

  3. I enjoyed looking over both your flower and foliage collages, but you know my heart sings for beautiful foliage! I love the heart shaped hibiscus leaf! Altogether, yours is a wonderful garden.

  4. Thanks for sharing that lesson, Diana. I need to remember that, too, with my plants here. I want to call that Hibiscus "magical" -- the way the colors shift in one day. How fortunate you are to have so many Hibiscus species native to your area! I think we only have one: H. moscheutos, or Rose Mallow, although there are many hybrids available. They are all beautiful plants! Thanks for joining in the meme!

  5. Diana, I love the range of colors in your hibiscus. Have you had any potential buyers showing an interest in Elephant's Eye? It must be hard, I think, to be in limbo so long, already having parted from one garden and not yet able to move on to the new one. I hope you have a Happy Christmas. -Jean

    1. We've had a few viewers, but we hustle while we wait patiently.
      Today I found Coprosma, a fuchsia, some happy potted roses, and Californian poppies in our one day garden.

  6. Really beautiful! I don't think I've ever seen that hibiscus.

    I hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas.

  7. That heart shaped leaf is beautiful. Beesia calthifolia in my garden also has beautiful heart shaped leaves. But my favorite plant this month is black bamboo. Happy hollidays.

  8. An indigenous favourite, lovely pics.

  9. So beautiful to see something blooming, and growing on your blog...it's all brown, and crispy here, with stunning touches of white fluff.

    Merry Christmas!


  10. How I love coming to your blog at this time of year. All sorts of gorgeous blooms and greenery to admire while we sit deep in our white winter coat. It's seems rather nice that you have some time to make the transition to your new garden, deciding on which plants are suitable and that you cannot live without. I can understand why that hibiscus is on the list, those leaves remind me of the Katsura tree I planted a year or so ago. Beautiful shape and changing colours make it a year round gorgeous plant.