This is our Rose of Sharon shrub, otherwise known as Hibiscus syriacus. Our Rose of Sharon shrub is actually made up of four separate shrubs that have grown together to appear as one. There are two bushes that bloom with pink flowers and another two bushes that bloom with white flowers. It has been here since we moved into the house on Glen Road. What amazes me is that the Rose of Sharon is a late bloomer, only beginning to show its flowers in August. As many trees and shrubs are so affected in their blooming by how much water they receive, that the Rose of Sharon always provides such beautiful flowers in the intense heat of August is amazing. I wrote a whole post last year about the Rose of Sharon and how they grow. This year I was more interested in how this Hibiscus syriacus got such an unusual name like Rose of Sharon. As with most stories of origin, the answer lies in the Bible if you believe the research that I have conducted.
The name, “Rose of Sharon” can be traced back to the Bible’s Old Testament in the Song of Solomon 2:1. Here it is from 2:1 through 2:7:
I am a Rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.
Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens.
Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in the shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.
Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.
His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.
Rose of Sharon was once thought be indigenous to Syria, thus the origin of the syriacus part of the botanical name. Because of its Syrian roots, it was believed possible that it was the very shrub alluded to in Solomon’s erotic song. Botanists subsequently learned that this is actually one of many plants from China, but have retained the misleading species name. It is now believed that the Rose of Sharon mentioned in Solomon’s song most likely was some sort of crocus.
I also remember the sister in the book ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck. Her name was Rose of Sharon. Whenever our Rose of Sharon shrub blooms, it always reminds me of my reaction to reading the book as part of a college prep course that I took when I was 14. I was considered mature beyond my mere 14 years of life so the teacher thought I was plenty old enough to read the book. Throughout the book, the sister, Rose of Sharon, was pretty flat, one-dimensional and boring. All that changed after she lost her baby and in the last chapter gave us a somewhat creepy, but very hopeful ending where Rose of Sharon “helps” out the starving man. I remember closing the back cover and screaming out in the middle of the classroom, “Ewwww, gross?!?” I guess I wasn’t as mature as the teacher thought. Seeing the pink and white blooms on our Rose of Sharon all these years later still makes me think of that incident and I always get a little smile and then giggle about one of my first experiences with great American literature.
If you haven’t read the book and don’t know what the creepy, but very hopeful ending is all about, please let me know. I’m already thinking how I would write about it without angering half of my reading audience. 🙂