September 2018 – Native Plant of the Month
Written by Guest Contributor: Elenore Goode
Indian Mallow – Abutilon species, Abutilon fruticosum
Family: Malvaceae (Mallow Family)
Plants in the Abutilon genus are collectively called Indian Mallows and occur across Texas in a variety of species and local ecotypes. These perennial herbaceous subshrubs are usually between 2 and 4 feet tall, with semi-woody fibrous stems bearing many heart-shaped soft green leaves and small edible yellow flowers. Abutilons are extremely hardy to drought even in shallow or rocky limestone soils, and they grow happily in both full sun and part-shade. They remain green and bloom throughout the driest conditions, making them an important source of good forage and nectar for wildlife and livestock. There is excellent in-depth information on various Abutilon species and their uses in Scooter Cheatham and Lynn Marshall’s Useful Wild Plants encyclopedia Volume 1.
Indian mallows generally begin blooming in summer and continue through fall, sending out wave after wave of blooms and seeds. The smaller Abutilon fruticosum that is common in the hill country is often found growing well with wild petunia (Ruellia nudiflora), whose purple flowers contrast it well. Abutilons easily re-seed themselves and spread in disturbed soils, making them ideal for habitat restoration projects, especially to help quail and other animal populations in landscapes with poor soils and limited food availability. They are great support plants for pollinator gardens, pastures, forests, etc to provide shade, forage, and flowers during summer despite any droughts.
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