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Section Bombicella is the second most diverse section of Hibiscus, after section Furcaria, containing around 80 species. It is paraphyletic with respect to several other clades, including section Hibiscus, section Lilibiscus, section Spatula, section Trichospermum s.s., the Hibiscus lobatus group of section Solandra, the Hibiscus tozerensis complex (formerly placed in Macrostelia), and the remaining species of Macrostelia. Although the nested clades contain a number of popular ornamental species (Hibiscus syriacus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), it does not have the economic importance of section Furcaria, and has not been studied in the same detail. Consequently relatively little is known about the relationships between the various species of section Bombicella and those of the nested clades.
There are 22 species of the section native to the Americas [1, 2]. The centre of distribution is in Mexico and the adjacent United States, but one species is endemic to Ecuador, and two are also found in the Caribbean, one extending south to Ecuador, Peru and Brasil. The American species are Hibiscus acapulcensis (Guerrero), Hibiscus acicularis (northern Mexico), Hibiscus biseptus (Arizona, New Mexico, northern Mexico), Hibiscus cardiophyllus (Texas, northeastern Mexico), Hibiscus citrinus (Sinaloa), Hibiscus colimensis (Colima, Jalisco), Hibiscus coulteri (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Chihuahua), Hibiscus denudatus (California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, northern Mexico), Hibiscus elegans (Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla), Hibiscus escobariae (Ecuador), Hibiscus jaliscensis (central and northern Mexico), Hibiscus kochii (Guerrero, Oaxaxa), Hibiscus lavateroides (Caribbean, Mexico, Central America), Hibiscus longifilus (Oaxaca, Puebla), Hibiscus nelsonii (Oaxaca), Hibiscus peripteroides (Oaxaca), Hibiscus phoeniceus (Mexico and the Caribbean to Equador, Peru and Brasil), Hibiscus poeppigii (Florida, Caribbean, Mexico, Guatemala), Hibiscus purpusii (southern Mexico), Hibiscus ribifolius (Baja California), Hibiscus spiralis (Mexico state) and Hibiscus tenorii (Oaxaca). Hibiscus ×sabei is a naturally occurring hybrid between Hibiscus coulteri and Hibiscus denudatus.
5 species are shared between Asia and Africa. Hibiscus micranthus is found from South Africa to Burma, including Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Hibiscus deflersii is found in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Arabia. Hibiscus ovalifolius is found in Yemen, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and perhaps more widely in Africa. Hibiscus scindicus is found in Somalia and Pakistan. Hibiscus somalensis is found in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Arabia and Socotra.
In addition to Hibiscus micranthus, Hibiscus ovalifolius and Hibiscus deflersii at least 39 species are found in Africa. The great majority are found in East and North East, and especially South Africa, but one species is known only from Mali, one from Senegal, and another extends to the Central African Republic. The African species are Hibiscus ahlensis (Somalia), Hibiscus allenii (Namibia to Tanzania), Hibiscus aponeurus (Mozambique to Sudan), Hibiscus argutus (Somalia), Hibiscus barbosae (Natal, Transvaal and southern Mozambique), Hibiscus bequaertii (Katanga), Hibiscus boranensis (Ethiopia), Hibiscus chrysochaetus (Tanzania), Hibiscus clandestinus (Senegal), Hibiscus crassinervius (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan), Hibiscus debeerstii (Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Katanga), Hibiscus dinteri (Namibia), Hibiscus elliottiae (Namibia, Northern Cape, Swaziland), Hibiscus eriospermus (Eritrea, Sudan), Hibiscus flavifolius (East Africa, Somalia, Ethiopia), Hibisus fuscus (Natal to Ethiopia), Hibiscus gossweileri (Angola), Hibiscus gwandensis (Zimbabwe), Hibiscus hildebrandtii (northern Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea), Hibiscus hochstetteri (Ethiopia, Eritrea) Hibiscus huillensis (Angola), Hibiscus meyeri (eastern South Africa, southern Mozambique, southern Zimbabwe), Hibiscus migeodii (Mozambique, Zambia), Hibiscus mutatus (Namibia to Mozambique), Hibiscus pedunculatus (South Africa, Mozambique), Hibiscus praeteritus (Angola to Transvaal and Mozambique), Hibiscus pusillus (South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique), Hibiscus pycnostemon (Zaire to Somalia and Eritrea), Hibiscus pseudohirtus (Mali), Hibiscus rhodanthus (Angola, southern Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe), Hibiscus richardsieae (Zambia, Tanzania), Hibiscus rubriflorus (Angola), Hibiscus rupicola (Mozambique), Hibiscus sabiensis (Zambia, Transvaal), Hibiscus shirensis (Central African Republic to Mozambique), Hibiscus spartioides (Somalia, Ethiopia), Hibiscus subreniformis (Zambia, Botswana, South Africa), Hibiscus sulfuranthus (Namibia) and Hibiscus zanzibaricus (Zanzibar)
In addition to Hibiscus micranthus Madagascar has Hibiscus ferrugineus.
In addition to the species shared with Africa Asia has Hibiscus hirtus, which is widespread in tropical Asia.
At least 10 species (11 including Hibiscus cravenii (transferred from Alyogyne)) are found in Australia. These are Hibiscus brachysiphonius (widespread in Australia, excluding Tasmania), Hibiscus burtonii (interior of northern Australia), Hibiscus coatesii (Western Australia, Queensland), Hibiscus cravenii (Northern Territory), Hibiscus drummondii (Western Australia), Hibiscus geranioides (Western Australia, Northern Territory), Hibiscus insularis (Philip Island), Hibiscus leptocladus (Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland), Hibiscus peralbus (Kimberley region), Hibiscus setulosus (Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland) and Hibiscus sturtii (Australia, excepting Victoria and Tasmania).
6 of the American species, and Hibiscus pusillus, are x=11 diploids. Some other African species are x=16 diploids (Hibiscus mutatus, Hibiscus ferrugineus) or tetraploids (Hibiscus hirtus, Hibiscus micranthus), while the Australian Hibiscus brachysiphonius (2n=54) would appear to be an allotetraploid.
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