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View of Buck Island from East End, St. Croix, USVI
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Schooner Roseway, St. Croix, USVI

Hibiscus ( Hibiscus spp )

Because of its great beauty and hardiness, the Hibiscus has become a well-known and well-loved plant. It may be the official flower of Hawaii, but the Hibiscus can be seen in the Virgin Islands growing wildly along the roadside, or elegantly covering a window by someone’s home. Its presence is also seen in the states, unfortunately, during winter month’s, it can only thrive indoors. There are many different species of this beauty, one being from Asia, the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, and one from East Africa, the Hibiscus schizopetalus. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis has leaves that are simple and broadly oval. They narrow into a point and are about 3 to 6 inches long. Blooms are solitary, enormous, 5-parted and come in colors of red, orange, pink, yellow, lavender, or white. Less common are combinations of these colors. Schizopetalus, has coarsely toothed leaves, narrowing outward into a point, and a shorter stalk with a somewhat wavy surface. Flowers are a pale red. The 5 petals are bent back, deeply and repeatedly cut and curved into a striking display. They are very similar to one another, except the schizopetalus has leaves that are more distantly spaced, and the branches are more delicate. The flower from any Hibiscus, whether on or off the plant, will remain fresh all day, and then wilt in the evening. A dye obtained from the red petals, though useful, will stain clothes. The petals of the Hibiscus can also be boiled, sweetened and made into a tea. A cutting from this hardy plant, when placed in water for a few weeks, will readily root. Locally, these plants are attacked and harmed by tiny white insects. Green Tea, steeped and sprayed on the infected leaves, helps to rid these pests without the use of chemicals.