National Flower Series–East Asia 4–Republic of Korea (South Korea)–Hibiscus Syriacus


Hibiscus Syriacus (木槿 (mu jin) in Mandarin or 무궁화 , 无穷花 (Mugunghwa) in Korean) is a hardy deciduous shrub belonging to the species of flowering plant in the family Malvaceae, native to much of Asia.  Other common name include Roses of Sharon which is called in the United States.

The shrub is upright and vase-shaped, reaching 2–4 m (7–13 ft) in height, bearing large trumpet-shaped dark pink flowers with prominent yellow-tipped white stamens.    Shoots make interesting indoor vase cuttings, as they stay green for a long time. In the vase some new flowers may open from the more mature buds. The species have naturalized very well in many suburban areas, and might even be termed slightly invasive, so often does it seed around. The flower language is delicate beauty.

There are many cultivars or sub-species of Hibiscus Syriacus with beautiful names such as the name Diana (one of goddesses) and marketable names liked ‘Lady Stanley’, ‘Ardens’, ‘Lucy’, and ‘Blushing Bride’ were being used. Colors can range from white, pink, lavender, or purple large and red. Some of the cultivars were as follows: 

  • ‘Bredon Springs(rose-pink with red centre)      
  • ‘Cicola’ (double white with maroon centre)
  • ‘Diana’ (single, pure white)
  • ‘Hamabo’ (pale pink with deep red centre)
  • Lavender Chiffon ‘Notwoodone’ (pale lilac)

The South Korean Context of Hibiscus Syriacus L.

  • There are about 100 cultivars of Mugunghwa indigenous to Korea but it is understood that the correct cultivar should be the Tashim sub-species, single pink blossom with the red-centre as the national flower.
  • The name “mugungwha” was first used by the poet Lee Gyu-bo (이규보,1168 – 1241) of Goryeo Dynasty
    • Korean is passionate with this flower as shown from Korean literature 1400 years ago. It is the national emblem of South Korea that appears on many official documents and is also written into the National Anthem as follows:

    A thousand miles of splendid rivers and mountains, filled with mugunghwa—
    Great Korean People, stay true to the Great Korean way.

      The Mugunghwa is known to survive harsh environments,  and spreads out from its origin. This reflects Korean history and reflects Korean people’s survival through times of trials and sufferings; and this is embodied in Korea as an independent nation with a long history. In addition, its tenacity characteristics were reflected in both the tenets of  ITF (International Taekwon-do Federation) and WTF (World Taekwondo Federation). Besides, for its toughness and respectability, mugunghwa is a name bestowed on Korean high-speed trains and even football teams. 


    • These beautiful flowers are edible. The tea is popular as a natural diuretic; it contains vitamin C and minerals, and is used traditionally as a mild medicine. A 2008 USDA study shows consuming hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure in a group of pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. In Indian and Chinese traditional medicine, hibiscus is considered as herbs that have medicinal values.
    • Hibiscus are also national flowers of  Malaysia – Hibiscus Rosa Sinesis and Haiti (Species unsure and may be still unofficial)
      • A mythological fiction, Xuanzhongji (Hanja:玄中記), written in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (Hanja:東晉) of China mentions, “The Land of Wisemen is spread for 1,000 li where mugungwha flowers bloom plentifully.”(君子之國,地方千里,多木槿之華) .
      • Hibiscus Syriacus L. are also called Roses of Sharon but Roses of Sharon not only refers to Hibiscus Syriacus L. but also Hypericum calycinum (picture below), another evergreen flowering shrub native to southeast Europe and southwest Asia

       Hypericum calycinum



      National Flower Series–East Asia 3–North Korea (Magnolia Siboldii)




      Magnolia sieboldii also called “Mongnan” or “Mokran” (목란; 木蘭) is the national flower of North Korea. It is usually grown as an ornamental tree in gardens. This species, Magnolia Sieboldii is one of the hardiest magnolias that can thrive in difficult environment and can be found  as far north as the Arboretum in Finland.

      It  is a large shrub or consider as small tree 5–10 m tall. The stalks, young leaves, young twigs and young buds are downy. The leaves are elliptical to ovate-oblong, 9-16 cm (rarely 25 cm) long and 4-10 cm (rarely 12 cm) broad. The flowers, unlike the better-known spring flowering  species of  Magnolias, blossoming primarily only in early summer and continue intermittently until late summer. The flowers are pendulous, cup-shaped, 7-10 cm diameter, and have 6-12 petals with the outer three smaller tepals and the remaining larger white petals.  The carpels are greenish and the stamens can be reddish-purple or greenish-white.The magnolia also produces a reddish-brown cone-like fruit in the center of the flower, which contains the seeds.  The fruit is a source of food for birds.

      Interesting to note

    • Magnolia fossils dating back millions years ago have been found confirming that magnolia are one of the most ancient flowing plants;
    • Ylang ylang and nutmegs are actually species of the magnolia family;
    • Magnolia trees can grow as old as 100 years.
    • In Chinese, if you twist around 木兰花,it will become 花木兰,a female legendary  figure in the Ballad of Mulan who disguised as a guy and joined the army on behalf of his father.

      Some people have mistaken Kimilsungia flower, a hybrid cultivar of orchid Dendrobium ‘Kim Il-sung’ of orchid is North Korea’s national flower.  An interesting article explaining about the history of  Kimilsungia (name after Kim Il Sung and Indonesia) can be found here.


      Another flower commonly mistaken is the Kimjongilia which is named after the late North Korean leader,  Kim Il-Sung’s son, Kim Jong-Il. Kimjongilia  is a hybrid cultivar of tuberous begonia.  


      Both Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia are not national flowers of North Korea though  large scale exhibitions of these two flowers were held annually in North Korea.

      National Flower Series – East Asia 2- China (Mudan) – Unofficial

      National Flower Series – East Asia 2 – People’s Republic of China – UNOFFICIAL

      Although People’s Republic of China has not officially declared a national flower, everyone in China knows that the Republic’s unofficial national flower is peony (Paeonia Suffruticosa) also called 牡丹 (mǔdān) or 富贵花 (fùguìhuā) “flower of riches and honour”, 花王 (huawang) “king of the flowers”, and is used symbolically in Chinese art and is considered as a symbol of prosperity.

      The Qing Dynasty adopted Poeny as the national flower for China. However, over the past 20 years, numerous attempts have been made to select a national flower. The two front-runners are the peony and Chinese plum blossom. Some people believe China is too large and diverse to be represented by just one flower. The idea of a dual national flower (including both the peony and plum blossom) is growing in popularity. Another suggestion proposes having a different flower to represent each season. In 1994, a panel from the Chinese Flower Association recommended the peony as the national flower, along with these seasonal flowers: orchid (spring), lotus (summer), chrysanthemum (autumn) and plum (winter). This, however, was not ratify by the National People’s Congress. In 2003, another selection process had begun but until to date, no decision had been made.

      The ancient Chinese city Luoyang has a reputation as a cultivation centre for the peonies. Throughout Chinese history, peonies in Luoyang have been said to be the finest in the country. Dozens of peony exhibitions and shows are still held there annually.

      Paeonia (peony or paeony) is a genus of flowering plants, the only genus in the family Paeoniaceae. They are native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America. Boundaries between species are not clear and estimates of the number of species range from 25 to 40.

      Most are herbaceous perennial plants 0.5 to 1.5 metres (1.5 to 5 feet) tall, but some resemble trees 1.5–3 m (5–10 ft) tall. They have compound, deeply lobed leaves and large, often fragrant, flowers, ranging from red to white or yellow, in late spring and early summer.

      National Flower Series – South East Asia 4- Brunei Darussalam

      National Flower Series – Brunei Darussalam – Dillenia or Simpoh

      Dillenia or commonly known as Simpoh or Simpor orSimpur is a genus of 100 species of flowering plants in the family Dilleniaceae, native to tropical and subtropical regions of southern Asia, Australasia, and the Indian Ocean islands. The genus is named after the German botanist Johann Jacob Dillenius, and consists of evergreen or semi-evergreen trees and shrubs.
      It is widespread in Brunei and can grow in various habitats including white sands where other species can not live. Dr.s Idris M. of Brunei Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources once said: “the unique blossoming of the flower and the green color of its leaves symbolizes the development” of the country’s “economy investment (from fruit) towards better economic growth (to flower).” The plants blends well with the daily lives of the people, its large leaves are used to wrap food such as tempeh (fermented soya bean cakes),nasi lemak and tapai (fermented rice) or rolled into shallow cones to contain traditional ‘fast food’ such as rojak. The plants have very deep roots to tap the underground resources hence people used that as a guide to locate dig a well. In addition, the mature or old leaves of some species contain silica deposit can can be used as a substitute for sandpaper. Its values extends to its medicinal value whereby young shoots were used to staunch bleeding wounds and fruit pulps were used to wash the hair. Source: adapted from Science

      National Flower Series – South East Asia 1 – Singapore

      National flower series -Singapore – Vanda Ms. Joaquim (Chinese: 卓锦万黛兰; pinyin: zhuójǐn wàndàilán), also known as the Singapore Orchid and the Princess Aloha Orchid is a hybrid orchid cultivar that is Singapore’s national flower

      Agnes Joaquim bred this orchid which carries her name. It was recognised as a hybrid not only by orchid expert Henry Ridley in 1893 and again in 1896, but by other contemporary orchid growers as well as orchid journals including the Orchid Review. Sander’s Complete List of Orchid Hybrids, which distinguished between natural and artificial hybrids, listed Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ as an artificial hybrid.Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ is a cross between the Burmese Vanda teres and the MalayanVanda hookeriana. It is not known which of the two species produced the seeds and which one provided the pollen. The hybrid was shown to Henry Ridley, the director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Ridley examined it, had it sketched and sent a description to the Gardeners’ Chronicle writing that: ‘A few years ago Miss Joaquim, a lady residing in Singapore, well known for her success as a horticulturist, succeeded in crossing Vanda hookeriana Rchb. f., and V. teres, two plants cultivated in almost every garden in Singapore。 (sourced from Wikipedia)

      National Flower Series – South East Asia 3- Indonesia

      National Flower – Indonesia There are three categories of floral emblem that symbolize Indonesia; puspa bangsa (national flower) of Indonesia is Melati (Jasminum sambac), puspa pesona (flower of charm) is Anggrek Bulan (Moon Orchid) (Phalaenopsis amabilis) and puspa langka (rare flower) is Padma Raksasa Rafflesia (Rafflesia arnoldii). All three were chosen on World Environment Day in 1990 and enforced by law through Presidential Decree (Keputusan Presiden) No. 4 1993. On the other occasion Bunga Bangkai (Titan arum) was also added as puspa langka together with Rafflesia.

      Melati (jasminum sambac), a small white flower with sweet fragrance, has long been considered as a sacred flower in Indonesian tradition, as it symbolizes purity, sacredness, graceful simplicity and sincerity. For example, on her wedding day, a traditional Indonesian bride’s hair is often adorned with arrangements of jasmine, while the groom’s kris is often adorned with a lock of jasmine. However, jasmine is also often used as floral offering for spirits and deities, and also often present during funerals which gave it its mystical and sacred properties.
      Moon Orchid was chosen for its beauty, while the other two rare flowers,
      Rafflesia arnoldii and Titan arum were chosen to demonstrate uniqueness and Indonesian rich biodiversity.
      Source: wikipedia

      National Flower Series – South East Asia 6- Myanmar


      National Flower Series – Myanmar or formally known as Burma

      It is known that there are two national floral identities for Myanmar. One is Thazin and the other is the Paduak.

      Thazin (Bulbophyllum auricomum)

      In Burma, the the most beloved orchid of Myanmar is Thazin, (Bulbophyllum auricomum) which blooms with tiny white flowers in graceful sprays that grow out of a small, bright-green, pear shaped bulb. It symbolizes royalties and purities.

      Found in Thailand, Burma, Sumatra and Java in lowland seasonal forests as a miniature to small sized, hot to warm growing epiphyte with 3.8 to 3/4″ spaced, ovoid-oblong pseudobulbs carrying 2 to 3, apical, deciduous, rather thin leaves that are often not present at blooming which is on an arching, basal, to 8 3/4″ [22 cm] long, racemose, many [25] flowered inflorescence occuring in the late fall and early winter and has fragrant flowers

      This rare, dainty and almost extinct species of orchid is beloved for its simple yet delicate beauty and its remote habitat high up in mountain trees. The likability of the orchid can be seen in the Burmese cultures via songs and the literatures.   

      At some point of time, they were so rare that no commoner however wealthy was allowed to wear it in the hair. It was only meant for queens and princesses and special envoys had to go deep into the jungles in Rakhine Yoma mountain ranges to collect some of these orchids for ceremonial purposes. Nowadays, people grow it easily with bulbs collected from the jungles but even then, it is still an expensive flower that brides drape around their high chignons. 

      Padauk (Pterocarpus Indicus)

      The Padauk (Pterocarpus Indicus) blossoms in tiny fragrant yellow-gold flowers after the first showers in April, coinciding with the Myanmar New Year festival. and the Water Festival (Thingyan). Once in bloom, the entire tree turns gold overnight. 

      Due to the large concentration of yellowish flowers in the trees during the blossoming period, Padauk is often confused with Thailand’s National Flower, Cassia Fistula or Golden Shower Trees. Though both trees belong to the Fabaceae family nut Padauk belongs to the Pterocarpus Genus whereas Thailands Golden Shower Trees belong  to the Cassia Genus.

      The Myanmar people regard the Paduak tree as the symbol of strength and durability. It was also being featured in the love sonnets fo a 16th century poet king and attached the elements of youth, love and romance to the flowers. The flower plays an indispensable part in traditional and religious ceremonies. The Paduak can be found throughout the country. The wood of the tree is also used for making furniture.

      The flowers were worn as beautiful adornments during important racial festivities.

      Source : adopted from and