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Botany for Gardeners: Taxonomy of Dicots-Identifying the Mallow Family (Malvaceae)

hibiscus flower K


The mallow family is best known for cotton, cocao, okra, hibiscus, and hollyhock, but includes other plants with showy flowers such as sidalcea, globe mallow, and lavatera, as well as some pesky weeds like velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) and redflower mallow (Modiola caroliniana). The family is also known as the Malvaceae and includes over 1,500 species of annual and perennial herbs, shrubs and small trees in 85 genera, 27 of which are in North America.

The key characteristics of the Mallow Family are:

Numerous stamens fused into a column around the pistil

stamens 3 Wiki

Mucilaginous texture of all plant parts.

In addition, the following characteristics may be helpful in identification:

Five separate petals forming funnel-shaped flower. Three to five partially united sepals may surround the petals, often with several bracts.

Alternate leaves, usually palmately lobed.

Superior ovary.

Modiola_caroliniana Wikipedia

Redflowered mallow

okra flower Wikipedia


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Recommended Reading:

From Seed to Plant
Trees: Their Natural History
Oh Say Can You Seed?