Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon (Hypericum calycinum)

Rose of Sharon (Hypericum calycinum)

I gave Dave a little test yesterday. I showed him this photo and asked him if he thought it looked like "Rose of Sharon".

He looked puzzled.
Don't we have Rose of Sharon growing at home in our yard [back in Connecticut]?
Yes, we do.
Isn't it a tall shrub with pink flowers?
Yes, it is.

The current Wikipedia entry for Rose of Sharon states:
... The name's colloquial application has been used as an example of the lack of precision of common names, which potentially causes confusion.
No shit, Sherlock.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

So, in the States, "Rose of Sharon" is used to refer to Hibiscus syriacus, a large woody shrub with large pink/purple flowers.

In the UK, "Rose of Sharon" is used to refer to Hypericum calycinum, a smaller shrub with bright yellow flowers.

What, I wondered, do Americans call Hypericum calycinum?
Aaron's Beard or St. John's Wort

And what do the British call Hibiscus syriacus?
Beats me. It's not in any of my four books (I bought another one today). Hibiscus isn't listed at all. Weird, huh? Not even the monstrous 700 page (over 1,900 species) Collins Flower Guide [THE MOST COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE FLOWERS OF BRITAIN AND IRELAND] has Hibiscus listed. A quick look at Google results suggests that it might be called "Tree Hollyhock". Maybe Hibiscus is just not all that common in the UK.

Rose of Sharon (Hypericum calycinum)

Growing on a stone wall

And the point of all this is to show me, yet again:
Why there are Latin names for these plants and Why I should pay more attention to those Latin names and Why I shouldn't get my knickers in a knot over the common names.

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