In the Garden
May 30, 2012 at 12:30 a.m.
We printed this article several months ago, but as the tree is in full bloom, I thought it appropriate to reprint it. The trees are in bloom all over town and are very striking this year.
Although we have known the Confederate rose for a lifetime, there are two things about this plant that are misunderstood. First, the plant is not a rose at all, but rather is a member of the hibiscus family. Even more disturbing is the fact that the plant is not a native of the southern U.S., but rather originates in China. So much for facts, now let's discuss how this plant was adopted to be a southern tradition. As the myth goes, the Confederate rose was in bloom during one particularly bloody battle of the Civil War. A slain soldier fell beside a Confederate rose, and his blood spilled into the ground at the base of the plant. The flowers, which had started out white in the morning, absorbed the soldier's blood throughout the day, so that by evening they had turned a deep, rosy red.
As we know, southerners have always taken pride in their flowers and gardens. When the Yankees were battling the Confederacy, one of the things they did was to trample and kill these gardens. Because of its durability, the Confederate rose was a plant that endured. As a result, many gardens in the south were rebuilt and a majority of them contained this plant. It is easily propagated, so it was passed among the people and readily reproduced.
The truth about the color of the flower changing is genetic. The species of the plant is mutabilis which means variable or changeable. All of the flowers are large and showy. Some are single and many others are double. On some plants, the flowers are borne white and change to to a deep rose color by evening. Others may start pink, turn to white or even a darker pink. At any time, as many as three different colors may be present as the flowers fade or darken to their various hues.
The Confederate rose grows to 12-15 ft. and about 10 feet wide. And, like many plants that bloom seasonally, is often overlooked until fall arrives. But, as fall arrives and the plants begin to bloom, no one can miss their outstanding beauty.