Hibiscus section Lilibiscus

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Section Lilibiscus is a small section of the genus Hibiscus, which is nested in section Bombicella, where Hibiscus peralbus may be the sister group.[1] It contains 20-30 species, native to the Indian and Pacific Ocean areas.

Section Lilibiscus was introduced by Hochreutiner in his 1900 monograph of the genus. The sectional name is there stated to be a blend of Lilium and Hibiscus..


The origin of the best known species of the section, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, is unclear. It grows wild in many regions, including China and India, but may be an escape from cultivation. It may be a cultigen, and a compilospecies - many cultivated forms include other species of the section in their ancestry. Cultivars are numerous - possibly exceeding 10,000.

The other species are Hibiscus schizopetalus and Hibiscus hareyae from East Africa, Hibiscus bernieri, Hibiscus grandidieri, Hibiscus liliastrum and Hibiscus perrieri from Madagascar, Hibiscus genevii from Mauritius, Hibiscus boryanus from Mauritius and Reunion, Hibiscus fragilis from Reunion, Hibiscus liliiflorus from Mauritius and Rodriguez, Hibiscus bennettii, Hibiscus bragliae, Hibiscus macverryi and Hibiscus storckii from Fiji, Hibiscus arnottianus, Hibiscus clayii, Hibiscus kokio and Hibiscus waimeae from Hawaii, Hibiscus kaute from Eastern Polynesia, Hibiscus cooperi from Vanuatu, and Hibiscus denisonii of unknown origin.[2,3,4]

Hibiscus grandidieri is divided into 4 subspecies, sometimes treated as species - Hibiscus grandidieri, Hibiscus greveanus, Hibiscus manamobolensis and Hibiscus phanerandus.

On the basis of recent DNA (RAPD) studies it has been proposed to increase the number of Hawaiian endemic species in the section to 9, splitting Hibiscus immaculatus and Hibiscus punaluuensis from Hibiscus arnottianus, Hibiscus saintjohnianus and H. kahilii from Hibiscus kokio and Hibiscus hannerae from Hibiscus waimeae. [5]

The hybrid between Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and Hibiscus schizosepalus is known as Hibiscus ×archeri.

The name Hibiscus cameronii has been misapplied to a species or cultivar of Hibiscus sect. Lilibiscus; the true Hibiscus cameronii is placed elsewhere.

A wide variety of chromosome counts have been reported from Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (36, 38, 40, 44, 46, 52, 63, 70, 76, 84, 90, 92, 118, 132, 144), so it is possible that cryptic species are present. The hybrid Hibiscus ×archeri is reported to have a chromosome count of 84, Hibiscus schizopetalus one of 42, Hibiscus denisonii 84 or 168, Hibiscus arnottianus 80 or 84, and Hibiscus kokio 82 or 84. It may be the case that the base chromosome number of the section is 42, and polyploidy and aneuploidy is common, with some of the discordant counts being errors resulting from the difficulty of accurately counting large numbers of chromosomes.


  1. Pfeil et al, Phylogeny of Hibiscus and the Tribe Hibisceae (Malvaceae) Using Chloroplast DNA Sequences of ndhF and the rpl16 Intron, Syst. Bot. 27(2): 333-350 (2002)
  2. Lex A. J. Thomson & Luca Braglia, Review of Fiji Hibiscus (Malvaceae-Malvoideae) Species in Section Lilibiscus, Pacific Science 73(1):79-121 (2019) (2019)
  3. Lex A. J. Thomson & Martin Cheek, Discovered online: Hibiscus hareyae sp. nov. of sect. Lilibiscus (Malvaceae), threatened in coastal thicket at Lindi, Tanzania, Kew Bulletin 75: 51 (2020)
  4. Lex A.J. Thomson, Jean-François Butaud, Luca Braglia, David J. Mabberley, Pacific Hibiscus Species (Malvaceae) in sect. Lilibiscus. 2. Hibiscus kaute sp. nov., a Missing Link from Eastern Polynesia, Pac. Sci. 76(2): 175-196 (2022)
  5. Elizabeth Huppmann, Analysis of Relationships Among Endemic Hawaiian Hibiscus, D.Phil. thesis, University of Hawai'i (2013)

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