The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis in Sarawak has a vernacular name pronounced as 'Bunga Raya' in Malay ( see inset) . Why is this plant so prominent in Malaysia? A short walk back in time will bring us to 1960 , just three years after the release of Malaya from the colonial regime of the British.
The newly elected Prime Minister ( Tunku Abdul Rahman) declared on 28 July 1960 the Bunga Raya as the national flower. Of course, as history would have it the states of Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya formed the new federation of Malaysia on the 16th of September, 1963 and thereby continued to accept the Bunga Raya as the national flower of Malaysia.
The species that was accepted as the national flower is the scarlet or red variety that is commonly seen in rural villages throughout Malaysia. That factor has been one of the many deciding ones that made it the preferred choice. Besides, according the the selection panel, red suggests bravery. Not bad colour for a young nation. Further, it is a very hardy plant that requires minimum attention or care. Unless of course you decide to plant the many new hibiscus hybrids that may look more appealing in modern and varying colours and sizes but alas are easy prey to insects and other pests. When in secondary schooling (1967-1968) I always remember how my biology teacher so often bring it to class. It was such a typical local plant and being easy to obtain ended up as the main target for the dissection table. But before cutting them to pieces our curiosity was drawn to its external reproductive parts. The Bunga Raya showed it all - calyx, sepal, petal, style, stigma, stamen,anther and pollen in plain sight.
Today I decided to do a water colour rendition of the Bunga Raya as shown above. The painting was done in less than an hour. To all Malaysians- let's celebrate today's Jubilee Year of the Bunga Raya by planting a Bunga Raya in our garden. Have a hibiscus ? I do.