Throughout the world you will find different plants named Rose of Sharon. The flowers of one Rose of Sharon plant, Hibiscus syriacus or Shrub Althea, are very similar to the flowers of Hypericum calycinum, also called Rose of Sharon. Although the flowers do look similar, the plants are quite different. The reference to each plant is colloquial, and depending on where you are in the world it will mean whichever plant inhabits that area.
The flat, open plains of Sharon in northern Israel are populated with many wild flowers that grow from bulbs. Most of them are varieties of crocus, asphodel or narcissus, and it is generally accepted by Hebrew and Christian scholars that these are the flowers referred to in Song of Solomon, and not the shrubs the English-speaking world has named Rose of Sharon.
The name Rose of Sharon is Biblical, and it was first translated into English as such in 1611 in the King James Version. It is not known exactly what flower is referred to in Song of Solomon 2:1. The translation committee for the more recent New Revised Standard Version notes that the translation for the common Hebrew word is more accurately a type of pungent crocus.
The Rose of Sharon Bible verses were favorites during the 19th century. The descriptive verses of young love were the inspiration for the Rose of Sharon quilt block. The variations of the Rose of Sharon quilt block have a central open flower, with stems, leaves and flower buds radiating out to each corner.
Hypericum calycinum, Rose of Sharon
Hypericum calycinum is an evergreen shrub that is native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. It is the British and Australian Rose of Sharon, and it is now grown in temperate regions all over the world.
Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon
Hibiscus syriacus is what most Americans think of as Rose of Sharon. It is a deciduous shrub. Different varieties have flowers ranging from white to pinks and lavenders. The bright, blood-red petal centers are a typical characteristic; the red signifies bloodshed.
South Korean National Flower
The Hibiscus syriacus is the national flower of South Korea. Its Korean name, mugunghwa, means immortality. Women often wear the flowers in their hair, and floral renderings appear as national symbols and architectural features. When Japan occupied Korea in the 1930s, Nam Gung-eok sent tens of thousands of the flowers throughout the country to churches and schools so they could be planted to create "hills of roses of Sharon." He was arrested and sent to prison for his actions. His story is remembered as "the mugunghwa incident," which is briefly recounted by the University of Kansas Asian Botanicals studies.