This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Under this name a well-known ornament of our gardens in summer, the Chinese Rose-Hibiscus, or Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, is well known in Java. A London paper, Colonies and India, says:
"The ' shoe-black plant' is the name popularly given to a species of hibiscus growing in New South Wales, and remarkable for the showy appearance of its scarlet flowers. Growing freely in almost any kind of soil, the plant is frequently cultivated for the flowers, which, when dry, are used as a substitute for blacking. The flowers contain a large proportion of mucilaginous juice, which, when evenly applied, gives a glossy, varnish-like appearance, which perfectly replaces ordinary blacking, with the advantage that it is perfectly cleanly in use and can be applied in a few moments. Four or five flowers, with the anthers and pollen removed, are required for each boot, and a polishing brush may be applied afterwards if desired. A few plants of the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis growing in the garden would remove one of the minor disadvantages of a day in the country during such uncertain summer weather as we usually experience in this country."
To this we might add that in Japan and other Western countries the ladies use the juice of the flowers to dye their hair, eyebrows and teeth, of a beautiful black color.