First Flowering Of The Mount Delaikoro Hibiscus, Hibiscus bennettii, In My Garden.

Hibiscus bennettii Fiji - 3
After the passage of Cyclone Winston, just one wild specimen of Hibiscus bennettii remains in Fiji.


It’s always a special moment when something new flowers for the first time and it’s something every gardener should enjoy. I seem to have gathered a small collection of hibiscus. Some of them are quite rare. The latest acquisition to flower for the first time in my garden has been grown from a cutting donated by Dr Lex Thomson, Associate Professor (Agroforestry) at the University of Sunshine Coast. Meet Hibiscus bennettii from Fiji.

It was a honour for me when blooms from my garden’s Hibiscus insularis hedge, propagated by cuttings taken from the type specimen, were used to create a botanical illustration for the collection at the National Herbarium of NSW.

Last year I was posted a cutting by Dr Thomson and now I have a small, flowering specimen of this Fijian endemic. Fiji, like Hawaii, is a global hotspot for wild hibiscus. Hibiscus bennettii was described in 2019 (Pacific Science). It occurs only in highland forest on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island, in a protected area on Mount Delaikoro.

The name Hibiscus bennettii honours local ethnobotanist John Bennett, who has been assisting with field research work.
This hibiscus has also been given a common name – it is the Mount Delaikoro hibiscus – although there is nothing common about this plant at all.
Following the passage of Cyclone Winston, the most severe cyclone recorded in the Southern Hemisphere in 2016, the Mt Delaikoro population of just four plants was reduced to only one known individual, so H. bennettii is now Critically Endangered in the wild. It is now as rare as the much loved cycad Encephalartos woodii from South Africa.

As with E. woodii, there are specimens propagated from the parent plant growing in collections around the world. So when my plant is large enough to propagate, I should distribute tubestock to special collections and collectors in Australia. Home gardeners really can assist with conservation by cultivation.

I’m quite chuffed to produce a flowering specimen of the Mount Delaikoro hibiscus, Hibiscus bennettii, from a cutting in under ten months and to have it first flower in a Brisbane winter.

Jerry Coleby-Williams
Director, Seed Savers’ Network Inc.
31st July 2020 

 

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