En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
1 rating

Monday - September 12, 2011

From: New Braunfels, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Plant Identification, Shrubs
Title: How can I distinguish Hibiscus laevis from Pavonia braziliensis in New Braunfels, TX?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


How can I distinguish Hibiscus laevis (Halberdleaf Hibiscus) from Pavonia braziliensis (Brazillian Rock Rose)? Earlier this year I was given the former by a friend and former NPSOT chapter President. Then I bought a Salvia at Medina Garden Nursery, and it had a "volunteer" in the pot that they identified as "South American" Rock Rose. Now both are blooming, and they appear almost indistinguishable. Thanks,


Both Hibiscus and Pavonia are genera in the plant family Malvaceae, so you would expect them to resemble one another; one source referred to them as cousins, but lets not go there. When Botanists describe plants and assign them to genera and species, a great deal of attention is paid to the structure of the flowers in addition to other morphological and chemical characteristics. There is one difference in the flowers of these genera that is easy to see, and will allow you to distinguish Hibiscus from Pavonia. Luckily, you have flowers of both plants.

Before we go into flower parts, look at this diagram to refresh your memory. We are interested in the pistil which is composed of the ovary, style(s) and stigma(s).

One character that separates the two genera is the number of stigmas at the tip of the pistil. Plants in the genus Hibiscus have the style divided into 5 stigmas, while plants in the genus Pavonia  have twice as many stigmas (10).

In the case at hand, the common name of Hibiscus laevis (Halberdleaf rosemallow), or Halberdleaf Hibiscus gives us another clue. The halberd was a type of pole axe used in the middles ages, whose shape somewhat resembles the base of the leaf of H. laevis (or vice versa).

The following links illustrate these features:

Alabamaplants.com  pictures of the stigmas and leaf shape in H. Laevis.

Greatstems.com  pictures of stigmas of Pavonia braziliensis

Greatstems.com  good illustration of stigmas in a Texas Pavonia, P. lasiopetala. Also note the leaf shape


More Plant Identification Questions

Plant identification
August 04, 2012 - We found a bush on our ranch in southern Gonzales County. It has oval shaped leaves about an inch long. There are no thorns on the branches. Fruit is round and smooth, the size of a small cherry to...
view the full question and answer

Diamonds and Rubies plant (Lychnis coronaria)
May 02, 2007 - I recently purchased a plant from the Huntsville, AL Botanical Gardens at their annual plant sale. The name on the plant tag is "Rubies and Diamonds". No one at the Botanical Garden knew the scien...
view the full question and answer

Identity of ball-shaped purple flower in Connecticut
July 13, 2015 - I am trying to identify a ball shaped purple/light purple flower with opposite leaves that look fern like. It has been in bloom since late May or early June. I have found it growing with what appear...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on cross pollination
August 16, 2005 - I live in Cosby, TN in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I plant native species of wildflowers and shrubs. My question to you is: I planted cucumbers in raised beds next to t...
view the full question and answer

Identity of recently purchased plant from Somerset MA
March 29, 2011 - I just bought a plant at Home Depot but it came with no tag. It has fairly large greyish green paddle shaped leaves, the leave stalks are pretty thick. Can you tell me what kind of plant do I have? I ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center