July 2018 – Native Plant of the Month
Written by Guest Contributor: Elenore Goode
Wax Mallow/Turk’s Cap – Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii
Family: Malvaceae (Mallow family)
Wax Mallow is a hardy and productive native perennial mallow that has a long bloom period (late spring until first frost) and can bloom and fruit profusely through the Texas summer heat. This is a wonderful edible plant to include in the backdrop of landscapes and gardens for humans, livestock, and wildlife, and to create dense understory shade for retaining moisture under trees. The flowers, fruits, and leaves are all edible and nutritional; the leaves are a good source of minerals, and the fruits are a good source of vitamin C.
Wax Mallow’s large leaves are adapted to the shadier understory of trees and large shrubs, and it will also benefit from deeper soils and extra moisture. It can handle more drought and poorer soils when grown in the shade. It can also grow well in full sun, though it will take on a form that is much more compact, and with smaller leaves, and would still prefer some afternoon/evening shade if it has sun the rest of the day.
This is a very common plant in the nursery trade, and many cultivars and closely-related species are available. There are plenty of remaining wild stands to harvest seeds from as well. It is one of the easiest native plants to grow from seed, and they can spread themselves readily where they are not hampered by deer overbrowsing. Wax Mallow’s abundant seed production and ability to germinate in poor and disturbed soil make it a great and economical plant to utilize in habitat restoration efforts.
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