Hibiscus History

Ross Gast

Hibiscus Explorer of the 1960's

'Confection Perfection'
Have you ever let your imagination run wild only to find yourself setting sail around the world in search of answers to hibiscus mysteries? Sound far fetched? Well, perhaps so, but back in the 1960's one avid hibiscus enthusiast did just that. His name was Ross Gast and he made three expeditions trying to fill in the gaps in our knowledge about where hibiscus hybrids originated as well as collecting rare hibiscus species to use in his hybridization program back in California.

'Melon Mélange'
Ross's explorations would probably be lost to us 60 years later except for the fact that he wrote travel letters back to a friend as he made these journeys. In the letters he describes his day to day explorations, reports on key findings, and speculates as to what it all means. These very personal and fascinating letters were gathered together and reproduced in book form by the American Hibiscus Society in 1980. Long out of print, Hibiscus Around The World by Ross Gast can still be found on used book sites and can also be read online at Wally Morgan's Australian website.

We believe that these letters are worth a read by every hibiscus enthusiast, and so have added a free, downloadable version to the HVH web site at this location:

Hibiscus Around the World by Ross Gast

It is very easy to save this PDF file to your own computer to read at your leisure. Click the link and the PDF file with either open in a browser window automatically (use "Save as" to save to your computer), or it will download to your download folder (double-click to open).

'Electric Red'
Ross Gast was also one of the avid hibiscus hybridizers in the 1950's and 1960's. His personal goal was to develop hibiscus that would better stand up to the climate in California, where he did most of his work. Later on, he spent some time on Hawaii where he worked on the Hibiscus Evolutionary Garden at the Waimae Arboretum. Ross hybridized and named one cultiver 'Ross Estey', after a nephew, and that worthy hibiscus can still be found at garden centers in California and elsewhere.