Monday, September 22, 2014

Althea The Rose of Sharon

The Althea or Rose of Sharon is really Hibiscus syriacus which you can easily guess by looking at the frilly stigma. The stigma is connected to the ovary and carries the pollen down to the ovary to start the seed formation. It looks like an okra flower and announces its kindship by this similarity.  The rose of sharon referred to in the Song of Solomon probably refers to a crocus which of course is not remotely related to hibiscus. The hebrew word for crocus somehow morphed into Rose of Sharon.
My Altheas ( I can't keep myself from using the name my mother and grandmother used) usually are at the height of their beauty in august, but flowering for about 2 months. The bushes can form low trees here in SE Alabama and cardinals seem to find them attractive nest sites. I have had nests in mine several times.
They root easily and that's how I got the plant pictured above. They also reseed readily and  like a lot of other reseeding plants, care should be taken to leave only the ones you want, else you may be growing a thicket of Altheas in a few years. A mature althea is quite large, maybe 20 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide, so they require pruning to keep them in bounds.
I enjoy their old fashioned beauty and would not want to be without mine. There are a number of different colors and color combinations as well as single and double flowers. Just take your pick.

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