Hybiscus mutabilis. That genus and species name is one of the reasons this Farmer loves the Latin names of flowers. Immediately one knows this is a hibiscus family member. The species name, mutabilis, tells me something equally as interesting, for mutabilis means “variable or changeable” in Latin. Just like when someone sees one of our names, they know who our people are…
“That’s one of those Farmer kids isn’t it?” Or… “Isn’t that one of Napp and Sarah Ann’s grandchildren…yep, that’s him…but I thought he was a Brantley? Mmm hmm, he’s the tall one.” I’ve heard those comments many a time growing up (and still do), and we gardeners do the same with plants. “Yes ma’am, that’s a hibiscus cousin…you know, the one that changes colors throughout the day.”
So the Confederate Rose, a hibiscus kin, is a staple in the Southern landscape and fabulous specimen in the garden. Daddy has some growing on the farm down in Thomasville, and the crepe like petals remind me of debutantes or antebellum ladies with hoop skirts and pantaloons. Nearly every old home and farm I’ve ever seen can boast a Confederate Rose or two and boast they will. These little sticks appear as mere horticultural fledglings after a long winter’s nap and then erupt with herbaceous growth all through the summer; and by fall, these shrubs are now small trees and are covered with dozens upon dozens of blossoms ranging from the purest of white to blush and bashful and any other pink you can think! Fiddle-dee-dee indeed!
As for the lore and legend, supposedly a Confederate soldier, wounded from battle, breathed his last breath under the shade of this tree and his blood caused the flowers to change from white to reddish, rosy pink. Believe what you will, but the Latin name says it all for me – a hibiscus that changes, yet fables can be fun to nourish and entertain.
“So what’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”
- Mr. Shakespeare
What is in a name is important, and learning a bit about this name is a treat. Peruse the plant kingdom for more Latin nomenclature and be amazed what you may learn. In the meantime, plant a Confederate Rose in your garden and enjoy the beauty and myth all at once. A sunny spot with good water will give you blossoms galore from October through frost.
“Some people might be led to believe that the Confederate rose is a rose that is native to the South. It is, in fact, a hibiscus that hails from China. Fortunately, the Confederate rose found a friendly climate in the South. With fall comes remarkable flowers that change color almost by the hour. We gardeners of the South are proud to adopt the Confederate rose as one of our own.” Marie Harrison,
Watch with amazement the color change of the flowers, the rapid growth of the plant itself, and even the gawks of a passerby taking a gander at your Confederate Rose. From this Farmer’s garden and father’s farm for that matter, I hope your land is graced with its very own Confederate Rose; for, “land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts.” Mr. Gerald O’Hara, Miss Scarlett’s father.