En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Which one is huajillo and which one is guajillo?
November 19, 2013 - Recently I attended a field trip to the Leonard Garden at the Kleberg Institute in Kingsville. I took a picture of a tree that was referred to as Tenaza or huajillo. Later I took another photo of a ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of bush with red berries
March 11, 2013 - bush? grows along fence lines in rural areas; sheds foliage in fall; berries appear; colors vary from red to orange, depending on soil?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Americas national plant
August 07, 2005 - What is America's national plant? (please answer this a.s.a.p because i can't figure it out and it's for homework)
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
February 20, 2014 - I'm not sure of county of origin. It was given to me by someone I no longer have contact with. When I initially received it I thought it was just a small potted vine of some type. I've had it a yea...
view the full question and answer

Plant identfication
October 21, 2009 - Hi...Can you please identfy the tall, evergreen shrub with purple plum-colored foliage that I have noticed in winter locally?...Hope so, need he color! THX
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center