Last april I spend some days touring through Sri-Lanka, my first trip in tropical area after Florida nine years ago.

My great wish was to have a look about old hibiscus cultivars or species and may be to walk on the steps made by the first hibiscus describer the Dutch governor Van Rheede, in 1678.

After landing the first shock is the excessive heat and humidity. The second shock is the life of the population.

The third is the tropical nature with unusual (for me) huge trees, palms and blooming plants.

Hibiscus everywhere ;-)) and after one or two days the evidence that there are few modern hybrids.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis are near the houses, in front of the house or near the roads, mixed with others foliage plants like Codiaeum or many Dracaena species. The evidence is that one yellow cultivar dominates, present everywhere.

Who can determine this yellow one ? :

An orange-bronze with large dark eye was very present, alas my picture is worthless.

Red colors are not the most favourite, surprinsingly I never met a "Camdenii" but this interesting red one :


Classic double rosa-sinensis and schizopetalus in all colors are abundant. Dainty pink, Dainty white, Psyche, Rose Scott, Ruby rose, and this double red known in Europe as "Dianthoïdes"

In modern hotels area it is possible to see new hibiscus with old cultivars from the modern hybrids but the plants were often pruned and so far not blooming. Around the big temples there are also new plantations alas nothing interesting to see. We usually say that hibiscus are the flowers of Gods. That was not the fact at this time in Sri-Lanka. Following our guide, people prefer to offer white and scented blooms. Few hibiscus were present at the altars, much more favourite were the white Plumeria flowers. I was also surprised to observe that the hibiscus arnottianus seems to be unknown on the island.

In the great botanical garden of Kandy, a lot of many interesting plants but no hibiscus at all but well roses trees and along the roads we could see some roses plants to sale by farmers or gardeners, it is difficult to talk about garden-centers;

In others hibiscus species, I could observe here and there some Hibiscus mutabilis and many Malvaviscus arboreus :

Wild hibiscus species are present near lakes area, like Hibiscus calyphyllus, trionum or herbaceous very close, I observe this specie which one is unknown to me, do you have some ideas ?

and at the sea front large and impressive Hibiscus tiliaceus :

Everywhere I was searching for seeds, I could find seeds in the wild species but nothing to see with hibiscus rosa-sinensis, no sign of pods formation, no ancient signs, no old seeds on the ground, no spontaneous seedlings coming in propice areas. Natural pollination or self pollination seems to be impossible.

Meanwhile everywhere I could pick some woods and came back with about 30 woods. Back home I made 64 grafts and after one month I just lost 6 grafts. I'm happy with this result and now I have to wait anxiously to the coming blooms !!

SRI-LANKA or old CEYLAN is a fascinating island, if you are not too sensitive about human pollution you will enjoy your trip, the population is extremly respectfull and enjoyable and to conclude I will share with you this marvellous smile :

Best regards, J.F.G., may 2000
other miscellaneous: