Hibiscus acetosella - Red Sheild in particular

DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

Starting this thread as a continuation from a thread on plant trading...


There's a lot of confusion about the Hibiscus acetosella, and I know when I was trying to identify my Red Shield, it took some digging. I'm no Hibiscus expert, but this has apparently stirred up some interest so I chip in what info I can.
I'm posting several pictures which I hope will clear things up, and maybe we can get the plantfiles entry for this plant cleared up too as there are pics there that are not "Red Shield"
Micheal should be chiming in on this too...
First pic is of the bloom, in the photo it's appears a bit lighter than the leaf but it is really the same color in person.

This message was edited Dec 16, 2009 7:36 AM

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DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

Back of bloom with bud and leaf

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DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

Back of leaf

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DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

front of leaf

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DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

leaves and buds...

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zone 6a, KY

I love the foliage on this one. I'll have to try to find one. Thank you for the great pics.

Brewster, MN(Zone 4b)

Thank you so much for posting on this hib! You live in Florida, I see, so you probably have it outdoors yearround. When does it bloom for you? Mine is only out from June till Sept. and blooms sparsely in Dec. Do youhave to prune frequently? It can get quite leggy here but is stunning in the summer. One of my favorite plants.

DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

Blooms intermittently till around the end of September, but then it takes off. Yes in summer when it's raining alot it can get leggy, so then we do have to prune it. Not a big deal, as least for me as I have put it where it can take up a whole corner and do it's thing. Best not to give it too rich a soil either. In any case it's not bothered by pests, I dug my Confederate Rose up and pitched it because of white flies and I won't have them again for the same reason. It's easy to root, easy to deal with, rewards with lots of blooms that are gorgeous.
And not that often seen, at least not around here.

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

In the PROTA Database, a guide to the use of African plants, there is a comprehensive entry for Hibiscus acetosella.

A photograph of an African plant suggests that pink flower is the dominant form. A green leaf verity of the species is also know. The following link will allow the viewing of African Hibiscus resources; click on the link and then scroll down the listings for Hibiscus.

Hibiscus sabdariffa, the true Roselle, has the same diploid chromosome count of 72 as Hibiscus acetosella strongly suggesting that the two species can hybridize.

Unfortunately the extremely cold tolerant African species Hibiscus trionum, which is an annual invasive weed as far north as Hudson Bay Canada has a diploid chromosome count of 56 so the possibility of fertile hybrids without chromosome doubling is unlikely. Yes, I would love to have a Hibiscus acetosella like plant growing in New Jersey even if it is a sterile hybrid.

USDA Hibiscus trionum distribution map in North America

Hibiscus trionum shares habitat with Polar Bears, this is one serious Hibiscus even if it is surviving as an annual. Is anyone keeping Hibiscus trionum or one of it cultivators?


This message was edited Dec 20, 2009 7:17 AM

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

The following research paper documents the fact that hybrids between Hibiscus acetosella and Hibiscus radiatus are highly fertile.

Chromosomes and Crossing Behavior of Hibiscus cannabinus, H. acetosella and H. radiatus

According to the patents, Panama Bronze and Panama Red are hybrids but there is some confusion about that within the patents and the online websites.

Hibiscus 'Panama Bronze' - Patent Application 20090038041by J Ruter – 2009

Hibiscus plant named 'Panama Red' - Patent PP20121

Read the following pages about the University of Georgia’s Hibiscus breeding programs. Do any DG members live near Athens, GA (USDA Zone 7b) and can make a visit to the gardens. What is interesting is that they have Hibiscus acetosella and its hybrids living in Zone 7B. I am much more impressed with the photographs which Mj posted but long-term with the ability to do chromosome doubling we should be seeing interesting results from the UGA.

Ornamental Plant Breeding at the University of Georgia

Georgia Gems
Hibiscus acetosella


This message was edited Dec 17, 2009 8:00 AM

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)


Would you care to share with us exactly how you are keeping Hibiscus acetosella in Stoutland, MO which is within Zone 6b? Even if you overwinter indoors or have a heated greenhouse, it would difficult to obtain flowers as Hibiscus acetosella is reported to be a fall blooming species which requires a long night to bloom.

If the news is not good let me down gently as I also live in Zone 6B. Do you have any photographs which you can share?


Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

The following research paper has an abstract which lists the chromosome count for 12 species of African and North American Hibiscus.

Cytotaxonomy of Twelve Species of Hibiscus Section Furcaria

Diploid (n = 18 or 2n = 36)
H. cannabinus
H. costatus
H. surattensis

Tetraploid (n = 36 or 2n = 72)
H. acetosella
H. aculeatus

H. bifurcates
H. furcellatus
H. meeusei
H. radiatus
H. rostellatus
H. sabdariffa

Octoploid (n = 72 or 2n = 144)
H. diversifolius

The hybrid fertility of the African Hibiscus acetosella and Hibiscus radiatus, with 72 chromosomes each, was discussed above. What is interesting is that North American native Hibiscus aculeatus is unusual in that it has 72 chromosomes compared to the typical count of 38 chromosomes for most North American natives.

Profile for Hibiscus aculeatus (comfortroot)

This raises the intriguing possibility that Hibiscus aculeatus may be able to hybridize with Hibiscus acetosella and Hibiscus radiatus, without the resources of a fully equipped genetics laboratory.

While the chromosome counts are the same, we don’t know if the African chromosomes will pair-off with the North American chromosomes. Also the flowering times between the African and North American species are different and it may be difficult to cross pollinate the African and North American species. Obviously two ways crosses would yield the greatest potential. Hibiscus aculeatus flowers throughout the growing season which is not the case with Hibiscus acetosella. Unless you have access to heated greenhouse, such experiments would have to be conducted in Florida.

Assuming that hybrids can be produced and the 72 chromosomes pair-off the advantage to the gardening community would be the following.

1. The range of the African hybrids would be significantly expanded in North America.
2. Blooming times of the African hybrids may more closely match the North American growing season.
3. Potentially the hybrids could be prolific bloomers like their North American parent.
4. African hybrids could have greater vigor than the parent species.
5. New Hibiscus forms could be created.
6. If the hybrids are fertile, inbreeding and back-crosses to the parent species become possible.

I have been searching for any indication someone else has already done the cross with Hibiscus aculeatus but haven’t found any evidence that such a cross has been made. Remember that Hibiscus aculeatus is not a highly regarded Hibiscus and it may have been overlooked. Here is the Google search I was using:

Attached is a photograph of Hibiscus aculeatus seedlings which I am growing. The prickly hairs are just starting to form but are still soft. The seeds were purchased from Georgia Vines (Zone 8b) which I highly recommend.

Nicking the seeds and using conventional sowing techniques I had modest success with the first batch of seeds. With nicking and using the Zip-Lock bag technique I had an almost a 100% success rate with the second batch of seeds. Attached is a photograph of one of my starter trays with two different batches of Hibiscus aculeatus seedlings.

So which DG member in Florida wants to try and create a new Hibiscus hybrid?


This message was edited Dec 21, 2009 7:10 AM

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Somerset, KY(Zone 6b)

I love when you post such good information. I havn't gotten good yet in looking up all this information myself and look forward to your posting with the web sites so I can learn more. Maybe you should start a lecture site. I would be your first student.

DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

uh oh....

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

The PROTA Database lists eight species of African Hibiscus and provides chromosome numbers for seven. Here is the Chromosome summary with links to the PROTA Database Hibiscus entries.

Hibiscus acetosella; 2n = 72; http://database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Hibiscus%20acetosella_En.htm
Hibiscus asper; 2n = 36; http://database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Hibiscus%20asper_En.htm
Hibiscus calyphyllus; 2n = 80; http://database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Hibiscus%20calyphyllus_En.htm
Hibiscus cannabinus; 2n = 36; http://database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Hibiscus%20cannabinus_En.htm
Hibiscus lasiococcus; n/a; http://database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Hibiscus%20lasiococcus_En.htm
Hibiscus sabdariffa; 2n = 72; http://database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Hibiscus%20sabdariffa_En.htm
Hibiscus surattensis; 2n = 36; http://database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Hibiscus%20surattensis_En.htm
Hibiscus trionum; 2n = 56; http://database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Hibiscus%20trionum_En.htm

In the PROTA write-up on Hibiscus acetosella it is speculated that this species may be the result of hybridization between Hibiscus asper and Hibiscus surattensis as a result of human cultivation or natural occurrence. Both Hibiscus asper and Hibiscus surattensis have chromosome numbers of 36 which doubled to 72 during the creation of Hibiscus acetosella if this theory is correct.


In a previous post in this topic I discovered that deep-links to the PROTA Database expirer after a period of time. I have now found two deep-linking techniques which don’t appear to expire. One was a format used within PROTA and the other was a technique discovered by Google which I noticed when doing a query. As deep links are always problematic if anything stops working send me a DM.

This message was edited Dec 21, 2009 7:06 AM

Pittsburg, MO(Zone 6b)

Mike. I wish I did have pics of mine. My camera was at my daughters work when it bloomed and she kept forgetting to bring it home.

My plant got to a height of 5 ft when it started blooming late this fall, I believe it was around the end of Oct. and we were still having warm days and nights. When the temps started falling I cut it back to about 6 inches and it is now stored still in the pot in my garage. I was gone for a week and some family members forgot to close the door all the way so temps got down into the teens a couple of nights. One night it was 6 outside so I know it was well below freezing in the garage. I lost almost all my brugs and begonias and other tropicals, However, so far it looks like the hib is doing ok. I will know more when spring comes and I set it back outside.

The cuttings from you are starting to get leaves and I plan on getting them into pots in the next couple of days.

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)


Repeat after me:
I will never loan my good camera to my children, even if they tell me they need to take pictures of my grandchildren!

Did you get all parts back?

From you previous post can I infer the flowers on your Hibiscus acetosella were one of the pink shades? Did your H. acetosella set any seeds and if so did the pods have time to mature?

I will be interested to learn your Hibiscus made it through the winter. The only way we will ever increase the cold tolerance of Hibiscus acetosella is to grow seedlings and then challenge them to the cold. With cuttings we will only have plants which can survive in the Deep South.

If there anyone else who has had experience with Hibiscus acetosella in the cold?


Canton,IL &Dent Coun, MO(Zone 5b)

Robyn which tropicals did you loose I forgot....brugs I have 2 I can send you cuttings of but I don't remember what color they are...LOL

Pittsburg, MO(Zone 6b)

The flowers were a deep red color and they didn't have time to mature enough to get pods. I'm hoping it will tolerate the cold better this year. I have noticed my other tropical hibs are doing better this year with handling the cold. I have 6 in the garage now that I have not cut back and 3 are at the front end where it is a little warmer. One is still blooming. The others that are at the back where the door was left open, the leaves have started turning black. I thought about cutting them back but I'm experimenting on them since they are not any named ones. So far they have not turned to mush.

If I get the Maple Sugar to survive the winter, I will do the others the same next winter and maybe we can get them to tolerate our zones.

Since this is supposed to be a mild winter for us, I have a brug outside in the ground now close to where I have had cannas now for 4 years that come back each summer. It is mulched pretty good, the brug I mean, the cannas I have never mulched. I'm thinking the location has helped tremendously since it is right in front of the garage and it is on the south side. It is pretty well protected there from north winds. This area is where I plan to put some of these hibs to try the cold hardiness in the next few years.

Trina, I'm not sure of all the ones I've lost. I can't get to all of the tags. I know a few for sure and that was Tequilla Sunrise, Donna's Monster White, Mountain Magic and Melon Kisses.

I still have to get the one piece from my daughter that transfers the pics to the computer. Never, never let it out of my sight again.

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Just happened to sumble on this thread and thought you all might liek to know that Hibiscus 'Red Shield' seed is no longer goign to be offered. Already alot of the major wholesale seed companie s have discontinued sale of this seed.

It seems ther e has been problems with unstable genes. I know I grew seed of it last year and did find inconsistencies with the plants. Ha d some that would turn their leaves to the purple color, some that turne d more on the reddish side and had several that just stayed green and never bothered to even try and turn purple at all. Was very frustrating, but the oen s that did turn purple were beautiful, so i wen't aroudn online to several smaller seed companies and did buy more of the Hibiscus ' Red Shield' seeds I could find.

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)


I found your report of the blooming behavior for Hibiscus acetosella in Zone 6B interesting. Basically the Hibiscus is waiting for the winter African monsoons which will never come in Stoutland, MO or not before the cold and snows kill the above ground growth. As is the case with many plants, larger Hibiscus will better survive environmental extremes, so the older and larger you’re Hibiscus grows the better but its overall cold tolerance will not improve and one extreme cold event will do it in. Hibiscus acetosella in its current form will never adapt to Zone 6B.

The only way we will ever see a Hibiscus acetosella like plant which can survive in Zone 6B is through selective breeding or hybridization with a more robust species. Without a greenhouse with temperature and light control in the late fall season the possibility of producing seeds is extremely unlikely in Zone 6B. One selective breeding strategy would be to collect seeds from the earliest blooming Hibiscus acetosella in Florida and Georgia and send the seeds north for exposure to our winters. Another possibility is to selectively breed plants in Florida and Georgia which bloom earlier in the summer, for multiple generations, and then send those seeds north. Even getting the plants to grow in the Carolinas or Virginia would be an accomplishment.

From the description your Hibiscus acetosella was from a cutting and not seed, correct?


Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)


I just had the identical experience with an eBay seed seller from whom I have purchases high quality Hibiscus seeds in the past and given the highest feedback. She would not guarantee the color of the flowers Hibiscus acetosella 'Red Shield' seeds. If you look at many of the websites selling Hibiscus acetosella seeds no one is posting pictures of the flowers. That should say it all!

DG member Onalee is a commercial grower and she has reported a similar problem. Read her comments in the middle of this page about Hibiscus acetosella.

If you look at the picture of the Hibiscus acetosella flower at the end Onalee’s post, the color of the flower is pink not red, just like the photograph of a “wild” Hibiscus acetosella shown on the PROTA Database.

The author of the PROTA report advances the theory that Hibiscus acetosella is a hybrid and possibly the result of human intervention.

Origin and geographic distribution
Hibiscus acetosella is an amphidiploid species possibly originating from hybridization between Hibiscus asper Hook.f. and Hibiscus surattensis L., most probably in the region of southern DR Congo-Angola-Zambia. The hybridization may have occurred as a result of cultivation. Hibiscus acetosella is cultivated, but also occurs under natural conditions, usually in ruderal habitats, where it may have become naturalized after escape from cultivation. It is a popular vegetable in Cameroon and DR Congo. The crop was introduced to South-East Asia and to Brazil. In Brazil, where it was probably used as food for slaves, it is now more popular than in Africa. Red-flowered types with dark red leaves are mainly used as ornamentals and can be found throughout Africa as well as the tropics and subtropics of other continents.

If you want Hibiscus acetosella 'Red Shield' you need a cutting from a proven plant which produces red flowers. If you have seeds from a proved self-pollinated Hibiscus acetosella 'Red Shield' parent, be prepared to grow a large number of seedlings and discard those which don’t product red flowers. Right now Mj has the best specimen of Hibiscus acetosella 'Red Shield' of any DG pictures or anywhere else for that matter.

I view this as a positive development. If you want a specimen plant of Hibiscus acetosella 'Red Shield' you are going to need a cutting from proven Hibiscus acetosella 'Red Shield' stock. If you want to expand the range of Hibiscus acetosella you need to start working with the seeds of Hibiscus acetosella and related species using the best breeding stock you can find.

A Question for Mj: How easily will your Hibiscus acetosella 'Red Shield' cuttings root and have you been able to trace the geneses of your plant?


DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

My "Red Shield" roots very easily in warm weather...I literally take the cuttings and stick them in a bucket of water out by the barn and they will have roots within a week. Prior to that I rooted them in a pot of straight vermiculite setting in a tray of water. Started doing it in the bucket when I had to prune it and stuck the prunings in a bucket till I could get to them and forgot and they all rooted. Also, since it does tend to "flop" the branches will root where ever they touch the ground. Don't know so much about cooler weather. I'm taking some cuttings today to do under the lights as we are due for a frost tonight. I will cover it as it's on the north east side but right up against the house so it should be fine.
It was in a pot last winter so got moved into the barn in very cold weather. It's been mostly in the 50's low 60's and there's not blooming much right now.
My boyfriend asked his old neighbor where he got his plant from and he said he had gotten it from a friend who didn't remember where she had gotten it from but that she had had it for a long time.
I sent you a d-mail regarding some of your other questions also.

This message was edited Dec 28, 2009 6:50 AM

Pittsburg, MO(Zone 6b)

I'm not sure if the plant was from seed or a cutting. I will have to pay closer attention when I repot this summer. Monsoons are not going to happen here for sure. Our humidity does seem to make them grow quickly and very strong. The hib was about 15 inches tall when I got it back in April and when I cut it back it was well over 5 foot tall and 4 foot wide. It is a very sturdy plant, it was tossed around a couple of times by high winds and a couple of tornadic winds we had. I couldn't tell you how many times I had to set it upright from being blown over. It was very top heavy. This year it will be put in a very heavy pot to hopefully prevent that from happening.

The cuttings have all rooted, in water, which I changed every other day. They sit on my kitchen counter with bright light, normal temps in the house stay at 65. They rooted within 10 days. If it was warmer they would probably have done so sooner. When they arrived the temps outside were varying between 30 to 50 now it's 22 and has been colder this past week. So I think rooting will be easy in colder climes.

DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

Seedlings starting to show their color....

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Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Your babies lookign good there. : ) What I wonderign is do people pinch their red Shield babies back? I saw soem at a store that weren't pinche d and they looked just like tall sad looking sticks. If so when do you pinch?

DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

When I do cuttings I pinch them back a few times. This is the first time I've grown them from seed, and I'll just watch them and see, if they need it I will, but probably sparingly till I see how they react.

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Thank you. If you decide to pinch yoru seedlings, I fyou cna show me a pic or tell me abotu how tall ya let your sget before doing it, sur e would appreciate it.

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)


If you are growing the H. acetosella from seeds would you please keep a statistical and photographic record of the color forms which are produced? The question is will Red Shield breed true to form?


DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

Got pics, and will do more Also have more seeds started, and will take pics and notes on them also.

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

I had bought red Shiled seeds from Summerville seeds and soem from Parks. The Sumemrville seeds came witha blue coating on them. bright blue, Park's did not. I have uniform and evry seed sprout from Summerhill , but not from Park's.

DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

Starlight, these are seeds from my own plant. shown in the pics above. Not near any other hibiscus, so I doubt there would be any cross pollination. One reason for starting this thread is that Other Hibiscus with a lighter pink bloom are often misidentified as Red Shield.

Somerset, KY(Zone 6b)

I'm enjoying the Hibiscus lesson. Keeps me wanting more. More knowledge and more hibiscus that can go in my Zone 6b.


Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am proceeding with an attempted hybridization of Hibiscus acetosella (Red Shield) from Africa and Hibiscus aculeatus (Comfort Root) from North America which I had previously speculated might be possible. Attached is a picture of my starter tray with H. aculeatus on the left and H. acetosella on the right, which will be planted this weekend. Behind the starter tray are two potted H. aculeatus which survived a killer frost this spring when I put my Hibiscus seedlings out too early and lost most of them. OK, I should have listened to my Mother 50 years ago when she warned me to never plant before Memorial Day in New York City!

I am using the Deno Method, with seed nicking, to start all my Hibiscus seeds and achieve a very high germination success rate. In the attached picture, you might have noticed that the larger seedlings are in the back of the tray. Using the Deno Method I was transferring the seeding from the paper-towel germination material in the order that they germinated and one of the consequences was that the earlier germinating plants also grew faster. We are only talking about a few days difference in germination times but the difference in growth rates was noticeable. Also the earlier germinating H. acetosella had a greener color. This is a VERY preliminary observation of my part and the tests need to be repeated.

Assuming that I get any flowers on the H. aculeatus and H. acetosella this year, which is a long-shot, I am going to have to overwinter both Hibiscus species this winter in Zone 6B. I know the DG members are keeping H. acetosella in Zone 6b or colder, so I would like your input on how you overwinter H. acetosella and when do you move the plants to a more protected environment?

Is anyone in Zone 6b or colder, obtaining flowers on H. acetosella and if so at what time of year? In addition, I am planning to expose some of my H. aculeatus, with protection, this winter to see if any survive.


This message was edited Jul 24, 2010 2:42 PM

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