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Ask Dr. Hort: Sea hibiscus flowers change color from morning to night

Sea hibiscus flowers change color during day

Q: There's a tree in my yard that stands about 20 feet, with multiple slender sections of trunk. The main branches grow straight up, with thin smaller branches that hold the leaves and flowers. The flowers are bright, butter-yellow in the morning, and by later afternoon the flowers turn blood-red, then fall to the ground. Flowers bloom from multisectioned seed pods that remain on the tree. Most flowers last one or two days on the tree and the tree stays in bloom from early spring until early winter. Can you identify this tree? Thank you. J.C. Edmonds

A: What you have is sea hibiscus or mahoe, Hibiscus tiliaceus. It will grow to 30 to 40 feet with multiple trunks. The flowers do change color from morning to evening like some other hibiscus species. On a negative note, it is listed as a possible invasive plant in Florida because of its seed production and ability to grow in the mangrove community where it escaped down on the lower east coast.

Elderberry bushes have multiple uses

Q: This plant or something just popped up this spring. Is it a giant weed? Thanks. Jeff Rodgers

A: You have an elderberry bush, Sambucus nigra, sometimes called Sambucus canadensis. It is native from Florida to Canada. Every part of this plant has been used by many cultures through millennia. Most popular is elderberry wine made from the ripe fruits and flowers. Eaten raw, elderberries are not that tasty, but cooked they are widely used for jellies, jams, pies and syrups. The flower clusters can be battered and fried; the flower petals can be eaten raw or brewed into a fragrant and tasty tea. Elderberry bushes stay evergreen here and grow multistemmed to about 10 feet tall. Other than human uses, about 50 bird species desire the berries, which is probably how the mystery plant sprouted in its current location. Weed or useful ornamental? I'll let you decide that!

Jacaranda takes years to start flowering

Q: I planted a jacaranda about five or six years ago and it is growing well but it has never bloomed the lovely purple flowers. I am so disappointed as this was my sole purpose in planting this beautiful tree. I have read a bit that possibly too much water could be a factor, but the tree really does not get watered but once a week or by rain. Is there some other reason? Christine Winterling, Port Richey

A: I will assume that the tree is in the ground and receives at least eight hours of sun per day and hasn't frozen back in the past two winters. A seedling tree won't flower for the first eight to 10 years, similar to citrus planted from seed. Certain plants, genetically, have a juvenile period, from a few years to decades, before they begin to reproduce, that is, start flowering. Make sure the cultural conditions are met: sun, water, fertilizer, cold protection, pruning and a mulch ring. Be patient, you will be rewarded.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. E-mail him at or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned.

Ask Dr. Hort: Sea hibiscus flowers change color from morning to night 06/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 13, 2011 2:56pm]
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