Hibiscus grandifloras, also Hibiscus muscheutos
This perennial is a member of the Mallow (Malvaceae) family, which includes herbs, shrubs, and small trees. There are over 85 genera and 1500 species in this family, some of which are okra (edible), cotton (for apparel), and Rose of Sharron (ornamentals).
The swamp rose mallow can attain a height of 6 feet with large, white or pink (6” – 10” in diameter) flowers. The 5 petals have red to purple centers and numerous stamens. The leaves appear in alternate configuration on the main stem; the leaves themselves are heart-shaped, with a toothed, three-lobed appearance. This species blooms from March through August.
The swamp rose mallow is found in wet to moist areas often near ditches and other open moist spaces. It requires at least partial shade and wet soils. Originally found only in Florida and Georgia westward to southern Mississippi, the swamp rose mallow, due to human distribution, now is found in many eastern states in the southern and mid-Atlantic areas.
This species can be used as a specimen plant, especially with its showy large flowers.
It does well in a wet area of the garden and can also function in a moist border location.
Our confection, marshmallows, was originally derived from the roots of the marsh mallow or swamp mallow. They were mashed, boiled in water until thick, and then eaten. Our current confection tastes nothing like marsh mallow.
This plant attracts many different species of bees, particularly as pollinators.
The swamp rose mallow cannot stand drought or near-drought conditions.
The flowers of this plant only last one day, but being so conspicuous, they are a wonderful addition to the garden.
The seeds from the dried flowers can be collected, stored in dry conditions in an envelope over the winter, and then planted in a greenhouse or near a window. They grow to flowering age in 4 – 5 months.
The swamp rose mallow is grown and available in the arboretum of the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center.
About the Author
Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.
Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!
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