I have mentioned elsewhere that the hibiscus flower was used in our primary school classes to demonstrate the different parts of the flower, such as the stem, calyx and ovary; the pistil which consisted of the stamen, style, and stigma; and then the petals. It is a large flower and there were several bushes of them growing in the tiny school garden; they were easy to cut open for demonstration – and fairly easy to draw in our Nature Study books.
Although tropical in origin, these hardy plants manage to grow in a variety of places. While hibiscus flowers are freely associated with tropical islands, the few we inherited with our garden still flower every year despite being totally neglected by me! They attract butterflies, beetles as well as a variety of sunbirds – in our garden these are usually the Amethyst (Black) Sunbird and the Greater Double-collared Sunbird.
Although we knew these flowers are called hibiscus, as young children we got into the habit of calling them ‘Hi Biscus!’ because that is what my father used to say every time we drove past the hibiscus hedge that grew next to the tennis courts in Barberton – especially when the bright red flowers were in bloom. You see, along with about 6% of the male population, he was inflicted with deuteranopia (red-green colour blindness), and so was unable to really appreciate the bright colours of these flowers. He could see the size of them though, thus he would call out “Hi Biscus!” to them, much to our amusement.