Riddle Me This: African Rose Mallow

June 3, 2015 garden in rain 030


What looks like a Japanese Maple, but will give large lush flowers in mid-summer, attracts hummingbirds, can grow in waterlogged soil, and is edible?

An impossible combination, you say?

Well, I found the answer by accident.


May 28, 2015 garden 010


I was browsing the water garden section at a local garden center last week, looking for little starts of Asclepias.  And this wonderful burgundy plant with fine foliage grabbed my attention.  How pretty!

Having no idea what it really was, I added it to my cart on a whim.  (Yes, shopping without my readers again.)

We’ve started a new bog gardening area this spring, and I’m adding interesting plants to liven it up.  This pretty red thing was just what I needed to contrast with the native chartreuse Sarracenia flava  we are growing this year.



Sarracenia flava, a native Pitcherplant


Later, when I did a little research, I was duly impressed with the versatility of this wonderful plant.  African Rose Mallow, Hibiscus acetosella will grow to about 5′ high and wide.  This plant originated in Africa, and was first recorded as a distinct species around 1896.

Traders  carried it to Brazil and Southeast Asia, where it was grown as a food source for African slaves.  This Hibiscus remains more popular in Brazil than in Africa, and is still grown as a spinach like vegetable.  Its rose pink flowers are used for coloring beverages like lemonade, although they don’t lend a distinct flavor of their own.


June 3, 2015 garden in rain 028


Although we don’t plan to dine on our ‘Cranberry Hibiscus’ this summer, we look forward to watching it grow.  Its blooms will attract hummingbirds to this part of the garden.  It will prove an interesting addition to our new bog garden.


June 1, 2015 perennial bed 028


We have had excellent experiences with the new Hibiscus cultivars we added to the front garden last summer, and all have returned this year.


June 3, 2015 garden in rain 010


 Hibiscus has proven very easy to grow in our garden, and gives a long season of boom.

I plan to take cuttings of this new African Rose Mallow within the next few days, and hope to establish it in more areas this summer.  I’m glad I followed the prompting to purchase this plant, even without recognizing it as an Hibiscus.

A happy Serendipity; this riddle’s answer has pleased us immensely.  We can always find magic, when we remain open to it.


June 3, 2015 garden in rain 029


Woodland Gnome 2015


About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

5 responses to “Riddle Me This: African Rose Mallow

  1. Beautiful new addition! A lucky impulse buy. 🙂 I look forward to seeing it bloom.

  2. How great is that? A plant that’s both beautiful and useful! I loved the sarracenias. I just wish we could grow them here. But at least I’ve enjoyed them on your blog tonight

    • Thank you, Cathy. The pitcherplants grow wild in extreme southern Virginia and in North Carolina. They are carnivorous, catching insects all summer long. They are great fun. I”m sorry you can’t grow them in your climate. They are hardy for us to around 0 F.

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