Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Meet Malvaceae – Mallow Family
Oh how my honeybees love Malvaceae! As do many others :) Their distinct funnel – shaped flower just are an invitation for a little pollinator! They have regular flowers, with 3 – 5 partially united sepals and 5 separate petals, often surrounded by several bracts. They have many stamen that are united in a distinctive column around the pistil. The ovary is consisted of 5 or more united carpels (syncarpous) and it is positioned superior. (If you are looking into a mallow flower, the ovary is the round shape at the bottom of the flower head, with the the pistil and stamens coming out of it.) There are partitioned walls between the carpels, forming an equal number of chambers. This matures as a capsule, the famous “cheese” of the mallows, properly called a schizocarp. Rarely they mature as a winged seed or berry. The Mallow leaves are alternate, and usually palmately lobed.
In my own gardens, Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus is an example of a mallow… When I can bear to harvest her flowers, thus robbing the big bumblebees, they are delicious in hot or cold tea. Mucilaginous, demulcent and beautifully colored tea :) They are a quite common garden plant in my area and seem to thrive in most garden soils in full sun, to part shade. A very easy plant to cultivate! I have the lavender, the rose, and the light pink colored ones.
I also grow Marsh Mallow, Althea officinalis. who prefers a wetter spot, but still grows during droughts, with only a reduction of flower production during it. Demulcent, cooling, moistening, perfect for hot, dry conditions. She soothes mucous membranes as just one of her many gifts. The roots are primarily used, but the flowers have these same gifts in a lesser degree. Cold infusion is the best way to extract her demulcent qualities. This infusion can be added to soups, or made into a delicious syrup for those who find the slimy, slippery texture doesn’t suit!
Hollyhocks, Althaea roseas, is another Mallow I grow in my gardens. As you can tell from this post, these are not plants I commonly can harvest in the wild, so I cultivate them. Mine are particularly dear to me as I purchased the seeds while on vacation once, at a wonderful heritage garden. Her flowers and leaves can be used in salads, or as pot herbs. A tea is used for urinary tract infections. Herbalist Michael Moore suggested using her powdered root or leaves to help heal infected wounds. I haven’t tried this yet, but will the next infected would I encounter! She is slightly diuretic too. Like the other Mallows in my gardens, she does fine in sun to part shade and isn’t picky about her soil.
Key Words for the Malvaceae Family are mucilaginous plants and flowers with numerous stamens fused into a central column!
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit here!
this blog post is part of my assignment for module 1 exercise 2
Tom Elpel’s Botany in a Day
WikiMedia Commons for the photos ( I recently had to dump my photos off my computer, darn it as I of course, had all these photos from my gardens!)