MALVACEAE (Mallow) - Wildflowers of the Escambia

 

Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe papaver)

Poppy Mallow, along with Cheeses, is probably the least known of mallows in the Escambia region. Indeed, they are rare but may be seen in thin pine woods and at roadside where embankments are shallow and the grass is kept to a height of five or six inches. Look for the plant to flower from March to July at the same time as Texas Paintbrush, Ox-Eye Daisy and Lance-Leaf Coreopsis. There is a related species, C. triangulata, which leaves are triangular-shaped. The leaf of papaver takes shapes that vary from arrowhead, heart-like or oblong or deeply lobed. The plant is usually prostrate, hairy perennial with a long taproot. It is not unusual to see stems as much as four feet trailing through grass and tall weeds.
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Turk's Cap Mallow
(Malvaviscus arboreus)

Prickly Mallow
(Sida rhombiflora)
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Turk's Cap Mallow is found in two variations in the Escambia region; small flower and large flower. Both are commonly called Bleeding Hearts. The plant is most often seen as a domestic but give it a chance and it will spread rapidly in ditches, old fields and waste sites. The larger (pictured here) is more apt to be at the margin of swamps where plants like Lantana might be apt to reside; semi-tropical conditions. Flowering occurs in late spring and extends into mid-summer.

Prickly Mallow is also known as "That Damned Ironweed." It would be an error to suggest in any way which Escambia mallow is the loveliest; however, I can say with certainty which is the most hated -- that would be Prickly Mallow. Now, before you start venting steam and getting all worked up because you attempted to pull it from your petunia patch and it ripped the skin off your hands, let's see if we can find something redeeming about it. First, in some parts of Europe it is prized as a greenhouse plant where it is pruned, shaped and fed the most delectable nutrients. Those growers are blessed with magnificent blooms the size of teacups. It is not indigenous to that area or climate and therefore is not invasive as we know it along the Gulf Coast. Nevertheless, we put it in a class with Kudzu and wish it would simply vanish. This author has a fine collection of the stuff and will gladly share a few cuttings with anybody who find them self without. Look for Prickly Mallow to flower anytime, anywhere. Its root system is like giant trees, which are virtually impossible to remove until the ground has had a good soaking. Chickens love the tender leaves, flowers and seeds so if all else fails get yourself a coop of layers and introduce them to it.

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Halberd-Leaf Mallow
(Hibiscus militaris)

Wild Cotton
(H. palustris)
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Quite often it's necessary to describe a plant according to its habitat or leaf rather than having a quick look at the flower. The Mallow family is just such a case. Most white flowered mallow will be dark purple at the base or the fused stamens may appear red. Halberd-Leaved Mallow is a perennial with lance-like leaves which margin is toothed and is lobed at the base; sagittate to nearly hastate. Whoa! What does that mean? Simply, sagittate says the leaf is like an arrowhead with the lobes pointing downward; hastate says the leaf is like an arrowhead and the lobes pointing outward. Halberd-Leaved Mallow, also known as Halberd-Leaved Marsh Mallow, flowers from June to August in a habitat of wet ditches, open sites along streams and on alluvial (silt left by an overflowing stream or river) ground.

Wild Cotton is usually pink or purple, rarely white, with a red center. This hibiscus is also known as Swamp Mallow. This wild hibiscus grows to a height of four to eight feet. Its leaves have an overall shape like an egg and will usually have three shallow lobes; smooth above and hairy beneath. The flower has a musty odor and is usually at the top of the plant in the leaf axil. Flowering occurs from June to August around salt or fresh-water marshes and in wet ditches; generally considered a marsh plant as opposed to roadside.

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Seashore Mallow
(Kosteletzkya virginica)
Seashore Mallow is also known as Salt Marsh Mallow. Its a hairy perennial with leaves that are triangular to lance-like in form, margins may be lobed or unlobed with scattered teeth. Leaf base is truncate (a leaf stalk is attached to it at the widest end) or occasionally like an arrowhead with the lobes pointed down. This plant may present itself with odd-shaped leaves like no other. Flo-
wering occurs from July to October. Pre-
ferred habitat is salt, brackish or fresh water marshes, ditches, edge of swamps, marshy shorelines and moist woods. Distribution of this plant is restricted to coastal environ-
ments.

Scarlet Hibiscus
(Hibiscus coccineus)
Scarlet Hibiscus is also known as Rose Mallow. The flowers are large, showy and crimson. It is said to be the most beautiful wildflower in the Escambia region. It is not rare, simply rarely seen. Here is a plant that says you won't see me at roadside but must venture into deep woods and coastal swamps. Its a coastal plant but is known to get on well at higher elevations. This is a perennial hibiscus and its rootstock will spread, building large colonies, but at a very slow rate as the stalks die in autumn and arise as new growth in early spring. If one is for-
tunate to harvest a few seeds you should expect good results if they haven't been bored or stung by insects. Wild game birds feed off them and many are taken away by flood and tide. Flowering occurs from June to September.

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