Thursday, September 18, 2014

My favorite plant this week is a weed?

Last week, I shared photos of a bed I'd recently replanted.  Although the focus of that post was on my newest Australian plant introductions, another plant, Hibiscus trionum, vied for attention by flashing its flowers.

Hibiscus trionum, as seen last week photobombing Leucadendron 'Blush'



The plant is now flowering more heavily.




The flowers last only a day but they're very pretty, featuring cream-colored petals and deep burgundy centers.  The question I face is: is it a lovely wildflower or a noxious weed?




I've had mixed feelings about this plant since I purchased it, on the fly, last March.  I found it at my local botanic garden.  I was familiar with the large-flowered shrub Hibiscus but not this species.  I grabbed it up, not knowing what I was getting but reassured that anything offered for sale by the botanic garden must have the garden's stamp of approval.  Then I looked up the plant on-line.  The gardening community is divided on the subject of Hibiscus trionum, also known as flower-of-an-hour, bladder weed, modesty, shofly, and Venice mallow.  It's native to the Eastern Mediterranean and was introduced as an ornamental in the US but has naturalized as a weed in many areas.

While Fine Gardening described it as a "perfect filler" plant, the opinions expressed by posters on Dave's Garden illustrate a range of strong opinions.  Here are a few quotes from the critics:

  • "The only good is when the soybean aphids arrive, it is the first plant they attack."
  • "All it took was a little rain and a little sun and they invaded like Attila the Hun."
  • "This plant needs to be tacked up on the Post Office Bulletin Board."
  • "It is not just invasive...it is EVIL, bad, malo, muy malo, ..."
  • "Kill them early and kill them often...When you think of this plant, think INVASIVE, such as in 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.'"

Even after reading the warnings, I haven't been able to bring myself to pull it out.  It has attractive, spreading foliage, which forms a mass 1-3 feet (30-90 cm) tall and wide.




The flowers last only a day but it blooms profusely from early summer through fall.  Mine was already blooming sporadically in March and has continued to do so, with heavier bloom following our recent spot of rain.  The flowers open when the sun comes out.  While some commentators contend that the flowers remain open only a short while, those on my plant appear to remain in bloom until the bed retreats into full shade in the late afternoon.




The plant prefers moist, well-drained soil.  Under our dry conditions, I hope the plant will remain under control.  It's obvious that it will self-sow freely.  Each spent bloom opens to reveal seeds, which can reportedly survive for years, waiting for the right conditions to germinate.

Oops!  There's a grass weed hiding beneath the Hibiscus I must pull



So what differentiates a weed from a flower?  I think it's in the eye of the beholder.  Many years ago my stepfather gave me a stitchery piece he'd made with me in mind, which I still have.  Maybe he saw me as a weed sympathizer even then.




There are many plants I consider weeds in my garden, some of which I tolerate in small quantities, like Centranthus ruber, Geranium incanum, and Erigeron karvinskianus.  Others, like the seedlings of Albizia julibrissin, I pull out at first sight, wherever I find them lurking.

One of 2 Albizia seedlings found hiding yesterday evening



The weed-suspect Hibiscus trionum, is my contribution to the favorite plant of the week meme hosted by Loree of danger garden.  Whether it stays a favorite remains to be seen.  Behavior will tell.  Please visit Loree to see her favorite this week (which is definitely NOT a weed).


All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

22 comments:

  1. Cross fingers it behaves for you as it's a pretty one!

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  2. In the Sacramento valley it's very weedy, and unfortunately very hard to pull out. It forms a deep taproot and very fibrous stems at an early age, so it's not easy to pull out with root intact. Sue

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    1. Thanks for the input, Sue. I recognize it could become a problem, although it's not something I've seen growing as a weed anywhere nearby. I'm rolling the dice that it won't become a problem but I'm not spreading the seed.

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  3. Even the foliage is lovely! Each region is different so I hope that it will be proven a worthy garden plant for you, and not a thug.

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    1. My hopes are high. The plant is blooming its little heart out even under cloud cover this morning.

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  4. As weeds go that's a very attractive one.
    I've just planted Erigeron karvinskianus and am germinating more seed. It even grows in dry stone walls. Next year I'll probably be pulling it out by the handful but it's a pretty one too.

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    1. I had Erigron karvinskianus (commonly called Santa Barbara daisy here) at my old house, where it presented no issues at all, Jessica - it spread but it didn't go crazy and it was easy to pull out if it landed somewhere I didn't want it. However, when we moved into our current house, there were masses of it, some over a foot tall, and it took me months to get it under control.

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  5. I do agree with Jessica, an attractive weed. Would you be able to snip of the spent flower heads Kris in order to try contain the seeds a bit?

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    1. Yes, I've done some snipping already, Angie. However, as the flowers die daily and the seedpods open quickly, keeping up is the problem.

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  6. It' s funny that what is an invasive weed in one country is a rare and difficult to please treasure in another. My daughter has grown some Hibiscus trionum from seed this year. It is an annual here and never seeds around. It is so pretty.

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    1. That's good to hear, Chloris. I'm getting a dozen or more new flowers each day now, even under cloudy skies, and I just can't bring myself to pull the plant out on speculation it may go wild.

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  7. Such a cute little picture frame. Some harsh words from Dave's Garden! I'd be scared away after reading that, haha. Surely you could keep it small and prevent it from taking over? I guess if it grows from seed easily and spreads that way it will be a different story.

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    1. I'm banking on hopes that the plant won't self-seed like crazy here, Amy. Surely, the botanic garden wouldn't have offered it for sale here if it's a pest, would it?

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  8. Have been reading up your posts.
    Some plants that are invasive are welcome in the garden but choose the right habitat.
    The plant you shows have a cute flower and fine leaves, hope it does not spread too much.
    Have a nice day
    Mariana

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    1. I hope this is indeed the right habitat, Mariana. It's certainly happy here.

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  9. It caught my eye! I'm going to research to see what it's like in my area. My friend, Fran's philosophy is if you like it, it's a flower!

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    1. It's certainly pretty and I do like the flower. I'm keeping it under careful watch.

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  10. How a plant is regarded is so often about WHERE it is. So hopefully yours will be controlled by your conditions. I think the flower looks really nice.

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    1. Yes, I'm counting on the fact that the environment in which a plant grows is pivotal in determining whether or not it'll be invasive.

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  11. Kris, I was curious about this plant, which was new to me, so I looked it up on the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States (http://www.invasiveplantatlas.org/subject.html?sub=5726#maps). It is indeed listed as an invasive (meaning that it escapes from gardens and destroys local eco-systems by out-competing native plants) throughout much of southern California (although not in Los Angeles county); shame on the botanic garden for selling it! -Jean

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    1. At a minimum, I think the botanic garden should have put a warning on it. The main reason I've allowed it to stay for now is that there's no sign whatsoever that this plant is running rampant anywhere on the peninsula on which I live. I'm keeping it under watch.

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