Colorful Hibiscus drawing visitors to Ie Island

Ie Island grows more than 1,000 varieties of Hibiscus.

Sub-tropical Okinawa now has 1,000 varieties of colorful Hibiscus flowers  in full bloom on Ie Island, perfect for Ie Village to host a Hibiscus Festival.

The free festival is already under way, and runs through December 26th at the island’s Hibiscus Park. Ie Village prides itself on its hibiscus, growing their own original flowers by grafting different varieties. Taking things a step further, there’s more to do than just look at the flowers and take pictures of them; the festival has special instructors standing by to teach people about hibiscus, grafting them to make your own unique plant, learning the art of planting and nurturing the hibiscus, and even how to make dry flower displays.

Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae. It is quite large, containing about 200–220 species that are native to warm-temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. Member species are often noted for their showy flowers and are commonly known as hibiscus, sorrel, and flor de Jamaica, or less widely  as rosemallow. The genus includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, as well as woody shrubs and small trees. The generic name is derived from the Greek word (hibískos), which was the name Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40-90) gave to Althaea officinalis.

The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to lanceolate, often with a toothed or lobed margin. The flowers are large, conspicuous, trumpet-shaped, with five or more petals, ranging from white to pink, red, orange, purple or yellow, and from 4–18 cm broad. Flower color in certain species, such as H. mutabilis and H. tiliaceus, changes with age. The fruit is a dry five-lobed capsule, containing several seeds in each lobe, which are released when the capule splits open at maturity. Many species are grown for their showy flowers or used as landscape shrubs. Many species are used to attract butterflies and bees.[6] Hibiscus is also a primary ingredient in many herbal teas.

This is the Hibiscus Festival’s eighth year, opening at 10 a.m. Saturday. With exception of local activities such as  a horseshoe competition in the afternoon, it’s pretty much all about the flowers. The same applies for other events, including a hibiscus planting ceremony.  The December 25th festival special is a Christmas concert beginning at 6 p.m.

To get to Ie Island drive north to Motobu Port (right next to Sesoko Bridge). From there, take a ferry to Ie Island. The ferry makes four runs a day to Ie, the first at 9 a.m. and last 5 p.m. from Motobu. The first ferry from Ie leaves at 8 a.m. and the last 4 p.m. A round-trip ticket costs ¥1,330 for adults, and ¥670 for children 6 to12 of age, and is free for children under 6 years old. There are more ferry rides on national holidays and summer time. For details, contact your travel agency, or Ie Island Ferry Office at 0980-47-3940.