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The Conversation

The story behind the white native hibiscus

white hibiscus Heidi Bornhorst
Heidi Bornhorst
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A white hibiscus from Heidi Bornhorst's yard.

The Conversation is spotlighting the hibiscus flower this week. Princess Kaʻiulani's father Archibald Cleghorn took a liking to the garden flower and brought in what seemed exotic at the time. Hybridizing hibiscus became a popular hobby and we plan to explore the process of crossing natives with non-natives to create wild varieties.

Here in the islands, the state flower is the native yellow variety. But there are far more white native ones — hibiscus that set them apart from other flowers because they have a fragrance. To learn more about the story behind this native flower, we turned to Heidi Bornhorst, horticulturist, botanist, and native plant specialist. Bornhorst said natives require special TLC.

Here are some tips from Bornhorst:

  • Start with good soil and lots of organics
  • Make sure you clear weeds and grasses to keep the offenders from zapping the nutrients
  • Steer clear of weed whackers and power tools that could injure or burn the native plants
  • Give them a fighting chance to thrive

This interview aired on The Conversation on April 25, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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