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Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007


Haibisukasu (Hibiscus)

My roots lick cinders Hot from the heaving earth. My leaves drink oceanic storms And every luscious cell swells to form Wings of brilliant light; I fold them only when our Ancestor Withdraws, flinging gold into the skies. What am I? A fire-eater! I laugh at your limp shirt.

"Flowers that say 'Aloha,' " by Linda Inoki

The hibiscus is a flower with strong links to the volcanic islands of Hawaii — certainly it turns up on countless vibrant shirts. However, this sun-loving shrub is indigenous to Southeast Asia, and also flourishes in Malaysia, Indonesia, India, the Philippines and nowadays almost anywhere where there is a sultry combination of heat, sunshine and rain. The plant's botanical name, hibiscus rosa-sinensis, means "hibiscus rose of China," and although it is not a rose and not exclusive to China, many English-speakers still refer to it as the "rose of China." In fact, hibiscus is a member of the large malvaceae, or mallow, family of plants, which includes hollyhocks and abutilons. Tropical hibiscus flowers come in shades of red, orange, pink and yellow, and many hybrids have been produced with large, showy blooms. They contain a drop of nectar at the base that attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and even children — although the latter are not the best pollinators.

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