Saltmarsh Mallow



Botanical Name:  Kosteletzkya pentacarpos

Common Name:  Saltmarsh Mallow, American Saltmarsh Mallow, Virginia Saltmarsh Mallow, Seashore Mallow, Virginia Fen-rose

Description:  Oh what a beautiful native perennial wildflower this is! And, on top of being so very pretty, it is almost entirely edible.

Saltmarsh mallow is a shrub-like wildflower with showy pink blooms. It occurs naturally in salt and freshwater marshes, swamps, sloughs, coastal swales, and wet thickets throughout much of Florida. It blooms spring through fall, peaking in summer and attracting butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators. This loves lots of sunshine, so plant it in the sun or part sun areas of your garden. It quickly grows 2-6′ tall x 2-4′ wide. Is deciduous. It likes moist to wet well- to poorly drained soils, which means it’s perfect for your rain garden or that low spot in your garden. But it also adapts to the usual gardening situation as long as it can get supplemental water during drought times. It is not drought tolerant. Like okra, cotton and some other members of the mallow family, the flowers open early in the morning and wilt in the afternoon, unless the sky is overcast.

Saltmarsh Mallow is almost entirely edible and has many practical uses. Its flowers can be steeped into a tea or eaten raw — they make a lovely adornment to salads. The leaves can be eaten raw but are best when cooked as they are tough and mucilaginous. They can be used to thicken soups or stews. Roots are edible raw or cooked. If boiled, the leftover water can be used as an egg-white substitute. The seed oil is being studied as a potential edible oil and has been used as a biofuel and in paints and varnishes. Stem fibers have been used to make string.

Flowers are 2–3” in diameter with pale to deep pink petals. They are solitary, nodding and may be axillary or terminal. Stamens are yellow and born along a central tube-like column that surrounds the pistil. The pink style and stigmas extend up through the tube and out its top. Leaves are petiolate, deltoid to rhomboid with an acute apex. They are alternately arranged. Leaf margins may be entire or irregularly toothed. Stems and leaf surfaces are pubescent. Fruit is a flat, five-chambered capsules; each capsule bears a single seed.

Tolerant of inundation with brackish water. Moderately tolerant of salty wind and may get some salt spray.

This plant in 3-gallon containers is 2-5′ tall.

Plant Lore:  Saltmarsh Mallow is often confused with Swamp Rosemallow (Hibiscus grandiflorus) because of its similar appearance and habitat. They can be differentiated by Kosteletzyka’s flattened capsule and generally smaller flower. H. grandiflorus flowers tend to have a darker center. K. pentacarpos was originally named Hibiscus pentacarpos. Plants in the genus Kosteletzkzya were separated from Hibiscus in 1835.

Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 11


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