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Hibiscus hirtus
Hibiscus hirtus | Lesser Mallow, दुपारी Dupari (Marathi), Lal-surgumini (Bengali) Hibiscus hirtus

Hibiscus hirtus is a diminutive species from the East Indies and Malaysia. The Lesser Mallow is an easy to grow tropical sub-shrub or perennial which reaches up to 6m in height. It has small, attractive flowers up to 3cm across. Flowers can be red, white, pink or orange. The Marathi name Dupari (noon) comes from the fact the flowers open fully at noon. This species is similar to, and in the past often confused with another tiny Hibiscus species ―Hibiscus phoeniceus from Carribbean and Central America.

Historical Reference: Clearly a very distinct species from the Hibiscus phśniceus of the younger Linnaeus and Jacquin, published in the third volume of this work, fol. 230; although probably a mere variety of the Hibiscus hirtus of the elder Linnaeus, incautiously subjoined by Willdenow to phśniceus as the variety B. In phśniceus the peduncles are jointed, and the upper part is thicker than the lower; which is not the case here. The leaflets of the inner calyx are there membranous, rather smooth, and three times broader than in our plant, where they are herbaceous and roughly furred. Phśniceus is altogether a much slenderer plant, not so conspicuously nor stiffly furred as the present; and we suspect that it is not even an East-Indian vegetable. Jacquin's specimen is preserved in the Banksian Herbarium, and is evidently of a distinct species from the three other specimens from three distant parts of India preserved in the same place under one name; and which appear all to be of the species of our plant. Probably Jacquin's plant is really South-American, as he asserts.

The drawing was made from a sample which flowered late in the summer at Messrs. Whitley, Brames, and Milne's, Fulham; where it had been raised from seed, sent from Calcutta by Mrs. Clarke. According to Van Rheede it grows to be a pretty large shrub. Koenig speaks of its being very generally cultivated in the gardens of the temples of India. Dr. Roxburgh says it is common in all parts of that country .

Linnaeus has not adduced Van Rheede's figure to his hirtus; and it being possible that his plant may be specifically distinct from the present, we have deemed it safer to abide by Kśnig's specific name; his plant being clearly the species and variety of Van Rheede and Roxburgh, as well as of the present article. We do not know that the species has been before introduced into this country. Cultivated in the hothouse. The colour of the flower is extremely brilliant.

The Botanical Register: Consisting of Coloured Figures of Exotic Plants
By Sydenham Teast Edwards, John Lindley
Published 1818