Did you know there is a giant hibiscus native to the Deep South? Neither did everyone else, but don’t feel bad, conservationists have recently (re)discovered an intact population of Hibiscus grandiflorus on a Georgia barrier island. In “The Untold Story of Hibiscus Grandiflorus,” Jim Barger Jr. uses words to paint a masterpiece that transports the reader or listener to the hot, humid, buggy, and diverse interior of Little Saint Simons Island to meet the gigantic swamp rose mallow. Barger’s evocative description is sure to capture your full attention in the first paragraph.
“A vast congregation of mint-green stalks towering twice as high as the average human, it’s crowned by an awakening of mammoth pink blossoms that coyly unfurl diaphanous petals to reveal amatory pistils and aroused stamens, stretching proudly to the heavens, raising sacrifices of golden pollen to the rising sun.”
It is not surprising that a plant few know exists lives in an ecosystem I also knew nothing about, the freshwater wetlands of the barrier islands. The article delves into the natural history of the barrier islands explaining how these habitats formed, reveals the delicate connections in the regional ecology, and how humans have disturbed that system. While acknowledging the fact that humans have severely impacted their native habitat, Berger manages to inspire hope and implore each of us to be agents of change.
Feature image- Hibiscus Painting Philip Juras
Photographs by Ben Galland