Rose Mallow

More than 300 species of wild hibiscus are found across the globe.  While most of these colonize tropical and subtropical regions of our planet, a fair number are members of Temperate ecosystems.  Indeed, six species are found in wetlands of the eastern and central U.S.; among these, rose mallow is the most common and widespread.

Favoring rich, moist soil, rose mallow can be found along meandering streams, in floodplain wetlands or in freshwater marshes.  This perennial, deciduous shrub, like other species of hibiscus, is best known for its large, showy flowers, which, depending on latitude, bloom from late spring to early autumn; they currently adorn wetlands across Missouri and are especially abundant on the Missouri River floodplain. The flowers of rose mallow are generally white or pink with red or purple centers and bright yellow stamens.  Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds pollinate the flowers which, like daylilies, open for only a day.  Seed pods mature and dry out on the plant, eventually releasing seeds that are eaten by waterfowl, quail and a host of songbirds.

Humans have long been enamored with wild hibiscus, using the brightly colored flowers for decoration or to make tea; the latter is claimed to have a range of therapeutic benefits.  For most of us, however, the benefits of this plant derive from its natural beauty and its role in the health of wetland ecosystems.