Perennial shrub or small tree to 6 m tall Stem: erect, woody, branched, hairless. Leaves: alternate, stalked, coarsely toothed, hairless, egg-shaped in outline but normally with three pointed lobes. Flowers: many, clustered, axillary, short-stalked, showy, white to pink or red or various shades of blue or purple, large (often over 10 cm diameter), funnel-shaped with five flaring petals, and five sepals, which are immediately subtended by more than ten, slender, linear bractlets. Sepals: five, but fused about half their length, then separating into five short-triangular lobes. The outer surface of the calyx is densely covered with fine, soft, branched, star-shaped hairs. Petals: five, white to various shades of pink, red, blue or violet, 4 - 6 cm long, widest at slightly wavy tips. Being a cultivated plant, the flowers will often have two or more whorls of petals. Stamens: numerous, but filaments fused into a long tube, with separate anthers all along the tube sides, and five teeth at top of the tube. Pistil: enclosed by the stamen tube, with one five-chambered superior ovary, five fused styles coming up through center of stamen tube and extending beyond it before branching above into five, obvious, rounded stigmas. Fruit: short-stalked, five-chambered, many-seeded, densely soft branched-hairy, somewhat oval, angled and pointed capsules enclosed by the persistent sepals. Each capsule chamber contains several, flattened but round, long-hairy edged seeds, which are released as the top of the capsule opens outward and lengthwise downward.
Similar species: Hibiscus syriacus is probably most similar to H. moscheutos or H. laevis, but neither of those species are woody shrubs, their stems do not branch, and their flowers are on much longer stalks. Our only other species, H. trionum, is quite different from all three of these larger flowered species since its petals are never over 4 cm long, and the leaves are deeply divided into three narrow segments.
Flowering: July to October
Habitat and ecology: A commonly cultivated ornamental rarely escaping, but apparently a spontaneous specimen was collected in 1985 along the old Penn-Central Railroad right-of-way near Liverpool in Lake County, Indiana.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Notes: Introduced from Asia, the Rose of Sharon is commonly cultivated as an ornamental but rarely escapes even though copious numbers of offspring can be found around parent plants.
Branching shrub to 6 m; lvs ovate in outline, usually 3- lobed, coarsely serrate or dentate, glabrous; cal densely but finely stellate; pet 4-6 cm, white or variously pink, red, blue, or violet; fr prismatic, pointed, densely stellate-tomentose; seeds long-hairy on the margins; 2n=80-92. Native of e. Asia, persistent after cult. and occasionally escaped. July-Sept.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.