Florida, full of flowers, or so it was named by Ponce de Leon in 1513. He stumbled into the area looking for the fountain of youth and was overwhelmed by the abundance of flowers. Even several hundred years later, you can find flowers year-round. Plants that are only supposed to bloom in the Summer can even be found blooming in Winter. There is one flower that blooms year-round but seems to be lazy and never fully open. This is not a native plant, but a naturalized member of the Malvaceae (mallow) family that we commonly know of as Sleeping Hibiscus.
Malvaviscus penduliflorus, known as Sleeping Hibiscus, is native to Texas, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, as well as parts of the West Indies. It has become naturalized in most of Florida and is not considered to be invasive. It has also become a favorite among most children. The bright red flowers may never open but are edible and sweet. You’ll often find children running towards this plant to pick a flower, pop off the calyx, and stick the white end of the petals in their mouths for a sweet treat.
One of the beautiful things about the Malvaceae family is that every flower in this family is edible (the only exception I’m aware of is Cotton which can be safely rendered into an edible oil) and has traditional medicinal uses. So when I’m talking to people who want to learn how to identify plants, this is typically one of the first families I recommend they learn, right after the Lamiaceae (mint) family. Other notable members of the Malvaceae family include Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), Cotton (Gossypium spp.), Hollyhock (Alcea spp.), and Sida (Sida spp.).
It is a spreading shrub and generally grows up to 6 ft (about 2 m) tall. Branchlets are hairy (hairs re-curved) to hairless. Leafstalks are small, not even 1 in (1-2 cm), and hairy. Leaves are lance-shaped to narrowly ovate both surfaces nearly hairless or hairy with a broadly wedge-shaped to nearly rounded base and a toothed margin. Flowers occur singly, hanging from leaf axils, and are red, tubular, about 2 in (5 cm) long. False sepals are about 8, spoon-shaped with ciliate margins. The sepal cup is slightly longer than epicalyx and hairy. The stamen column is about 2.5 in (7 cm) and extends out of the flower, beyond the petals.
Common Names- Sleeping Hibiscus, Turk’s Cap Hibiscus, Pendulous Sleeping Hibiscus, Swamp Hibiscus, Sleepy Mallow, Wax Mallow, or Cardinal's Hat
Scientific Name- Malvaviscus penduliflorus
Edibility- Flower is edible raw, leaves are edible raw or cooked (young leaves are preferred for salad greens), and the fruit is rare but edible raw or cooked once they’ve ripened.
Summary of Actions- Antihelminthic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antipyretic, astringent, cardiotonic, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, hypotensive, immunomodulating, and sedative.
Energetics & Flavors- Cooling, Moist, Sour
Parts Used- Flowers, leaves, and fruit
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- A variety of Hibiscus species are known with various names in TCM; Khrachiap Dang, Datchang, Tengamora. They relieve coughing and wheezing, transform phlegm, cool summer heat, nourish spleen Qi, promote body fluid production, and clear toxins.
Ayurveda- Commonly referred to as Japa, Hibiscus bark, leaves, and flowers are all used medicinally. They reduce aggravated Pitta and balance Kapha. The flowers reduce low-grade systemic inflammation when the lymphatic system is congested.
Fever, Cough, Cold, & Flu- The antipyretic properties of this herb make it great to lower fevers. Its demulcent action helps to soothe a sore throat and reduce coughing. It also helps to boost the immune system in general, largely due to the high vitamin C content. These properties make Sleeping Hibiscus a great plant to use in the case of cold or flu.
Hypertension- Not only is this herb a cardiotonic, helping to improve the health of the cardiovascular system as a whole. It also is a diuretic that helps to lower blood pressure.
Diabetes- Many traditional cultures use Hibiscus flowers for controlling blood sugar. This is typically useful for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Gallbladder- The flowers of this plant are high in vitamin C and other nutrients that help reduce the occurrence of gallstones. Some traditional cultures also use these flowers to help treat existing gallstones.
Skin & Hair- The demulcent properties of the leaves and flowers can help to soothe irritated, itchy skin. This extends to the scalp where the herb also helps to slow balding and may even help to promote the growth of hair in some cases.
Other Uses- Fiber from the stems can be used to make rope or to weave into a rough fabric such as burlap.
Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- All Hibiscus species are generally considered safe. But more research is needed to determine a safe dosage for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease.
I only included a basic introduction to this sweet flower. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!
All You Need To Know About Hibiscus: Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/all-you-need-to-know-hibiscus#:~:text=Egyptians%20used%20hibiscus%20tea%20to,the%20skin%20to%20heal%20wounds.
Benefits of Hibiscus: Herbs with Rosalee: https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/benefits-of-hibiscus.html
Flor de santos/Sleeping hibiscus/Malvaviscus arboreus: Zoom's Edible Plants: https://zoom50.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/flor-de-santossleeping-hibiscusmalvaviscus-arboreus/
Hibiscus: Kaiser Permanente: https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-4373005
Hibiscus (Fu Rong): White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/hibiscus/
Mallow Madness: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/tag/malvaviscus-arboreus/
Malvaviscus penduliflorus DC: India Biodiversity Portal: https://indiabiodiversity.org/species/show/264282
Pendulous Sleeping Hibiscus: Flowers of India: https://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Pendulous%20Sleeping%20Hibiscus.html
Sleeping Hibiscus (Malvaviscus penduliflorus): Weed Watch: http://www.technigro.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/47-Sleeping-Hibiscus.pdf
Turk’s Cap Mallow: UF IFAS Gardening Solutions: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/turks-cap.html
Uses of Hibiscus in Ayurveda: Ayurveda clinic Bansko: https://www.ayurvedabansko.com/uses-of-hibiscus-in-ayurveda/