Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus palustris)

by Lynne Bittner

.....At the close of a Saturday at craft show in Old Saybrook , Connecticut the last weekend of July, Richie and I took a drive to view the Long Island Sound. Not being familiar with the area, we tried to stay on the major roads. But soon, an interesting light house in the distance caught our attention and we abandoned our reserve and went exploring down a road that seemed to be a public way.

.....We didn’t get very far when we realized that it was a road for paying customers only. We turned around, and as we were getting back on the main road, we passed by a marshy area. Wait! What was that flash of pink back there atop the cat tails and purple loose strife? Quickly, we pulled the car over and went down into the marsh. Swamp Rose-Mallow! I haven’t had the opportunity to see it in 24 years!

.....An area along the Hudson River across from Bear Mountain was where I first became acquainted with it, though I was never able to get close to it because of the swampy conditions that it grew in. I resigned myself to admiring this tall beauty from a distance. However, today we were able to get a good upclose view of it as the marsh floor was rather dry.

.....This grand dame of the mallow family (Hibiscus palustris) grows from 4 to 7 feet high, and her showy pink flowers are 4 to 7 inches wide. They are in bloom July through September and make their homes in salt or brackish marshes near the coast. Her sister, (Hibiscus moscheutos) has white petals with a burgundy throat. I considered their cousin the musk mallow (Malva moschata) growing in profusion in my garden at home, similar in many ways, but smaller and hairier. I touched the smooth pale green stems, and pondered the diversity of plants in general. Why was this variety hairless and the one in my garden not? And how curious the spike-like structures protruding from the base of the sepals. As I always do, I had a sniff, but could not detect much of a scent.

.....It was a wonderful treat to be on intimate terms with a plant that I thought to be beyond my reach. It is a reminder to me that at anytime things like this can happen. You just have to keep your eyes open.


Rumors of Spring

July 1, 2003

The Wild Garden

Last Week in April

Tulip Festival

Dames Rocket

Bishop's Weed

Failure of a Garden

A River Walk

A Bouquet

Swamp Rose Mallow

Walking Sticks

A Canoe Trip

November Musings

A January Morning

The Poet's Chair


Marsh Marigold


Garter Snakes

Swamp Rose Mallow

Photos by R. Bittner 2005

Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus palustris)

Swamp Rose Mallow bud (Hibiscus palustris)

Musk Mallow in flower, from the garden. (Malva moschata )

Musk Mallow bud