This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V28", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Following Miller, the Althaea is generally regarded in America as the Rose of Sharon. We give the following, from Gardening Illustrated, as showing that no one yet seems certain what plant was referred to. It has taken us nearly two thousand years to discover that the Bible has never been accurately translated - and even since the last "revise" a learned commentator has discovered that in cases where the Bible reads "rose" it is just as likely "reed" was the original word. Still, we are all interested in these discussions, and love to note what people say :
"The question put by 'st. Michael's' was for the botanical name of the 'Rose of Sharon.' We must then first determine whether the St. John's Wort or the Rock Rose is intended by that name. With both I have been familiar from my youth, and there is little doubt but that the name ' Rose of Sharon' is popularly applied to the St. John's Wort; that Mr. Miller is wrong in calling it the Hibiscus Syriacus in his ' Dictionary of English Names of Plants;' and that the friend, Mr. Editor, 'at your elbow,' was right in insisting that the Rose of Sharon is the Hypericum calycinum; it is certainly so known in the trade. The Hibiscus Syriacus is a very different flower, and belongs to the Marsh Mallows, order Malvaceae, and is synonymous with Althaea frutex. The next point is the flower referred to by Solomon in his 'Song of Songs,' rendered in our authorized version - ' I am the Rose of Sharon." The first competitors would seem to be the St. John's Wort, and the Rock Rose, Helianthemum vulgare, a great quantity of which grows in the plains of Sharon. The Hebrew word Chabatsseleth, translated 'Rose,' is never applied to the Rose proper - the etymology is in favor of its signifying a bulbous rooted plant.
The Targum has Narcissus, the Vulgate rendering being 'flos campi,' flower of the field, whilst 'Sharon' might be translanted 'plain' or 'field.' In the revised edition of the Bible the rendering is - ' I am a Rose of Sharon, a Lily of the Valley;' and if we adopt the Vulgate rendering, and read it as - 'I am a flower of the field, a Lily of the Valley,' the Narcissus of the Targum is clearly the flower intended, whilst the association of the 'Rose' with 'the Lily of the Valley' implies that some flower other than the Rose proper, the Hypericum, or the Helianthemum, is intended. The Narcissus is plentiful in the Plain of Sharon and elsewhere, and is a very favorite flower in the East, and whilst it is uncertain what is really meant by the Hebrew Chabatsseleth, the weight of opinion is in favor of a bulbous rooted plant, and of such the Narcissus appears the most likely; and, though reluctant to give up my old friend, the St. John's Wort, as ' the Rose of Sharon,' I think it is not the flower referred to in the Song of Songs".