This plant took a little unravelling. It is a self sown seedling with large, short-lived flowers and serrated foliage which is lying almost flat to the ground. Mark thought it was a native but I think he is wrong. There is no shame in that. Most of the country thinks it is native and it is only recently that it has been separated from a very similar species, now called H. richardsonii, which is truly indigenous and indeed critically endangered in its natural habitat of northern east coast areas.
If I am right, this is actually H. trionum which originated in the Levant area of the Eastern Mediterranean, which more or less stretches from Cyprus to Palestine. It seems that the very dark eye to the flower is what makes it H. trionum rather than H. richardsonii. Well, that and chromosome counts. There are countless references on the internet to H. trionum being native in New Zealand as well as being widespread internationally. It has certainly naturalised here and by the time common usage catches up with the differences, it is likely that what we will have are hybrids between the two. It will fall to the botanists to try and keep a pure strain of the native H. richardsonii.
Both forms of hibiscus are usually short-lived perennials, often behaving as annuals, especially in frosty areas. They are in the mallow family (or malvaceae) and are showy, even if the individual flowers don’t last long. The common name is the unromantic bladder plant, though that is more correctly applied just to H. trionum. We do have one other native hibiscus and that is H. diversifolius.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.