Plants of the AUUC: Turk’s Cap Mallow

posted in: Nature, Nature at the AUUC | 0

Image of Turk’s Cap Mallow

Turk’s Cap Mallow (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondi), much beloved by hummingbirds, is a unique native shrub. We have a fine patch of it planted next to the entrance to the Grove. The brilliant red, tightly curled flowers with projecting stamens are like no other flower you’re likely to see in a garden or in the wild. Also called Wax mallow, Drummond wax-mallow, Red mallow, Texas mallow, Mexican apple, Manzanilla, Sleeping hibiscus, Bleeding hearts. With its large, light-catching leaves, it grows well in shady woodland areas. One of Texas’ best loved and most used flowering ornamentals it ranges from the Texas Coastal Plain east to Florida and also to the West Indies, Mexico, and Cuba. In the Valley it is evergreen, reaching as much as 9 feet tall and flowering year round; but farther north it dies to the ground in winter and grows to a maximum of 4 feet. Its leaves have been used as an emollient and in Mexico the flowers are used in a decoction to treat inflammation of the digestive tract and as a menstrual aid. The marble-size red fruit is edible, having a mealy taste, and is enjoyed by a number of birds and animals. The flowers provide nectar to eager ruby-throated hummingbirds and several species of butterflies. Livestock occasionally browse the leaves. Malvaviscus is from a Greek word meaning “sticky mallow”.