Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Bladder Mallow (Herissantia crispa)

Bladder mallow (Herissantia crispa) is an upland member of the hibiscus family, found primarily in south Florida hammocks and pinelands, but it has also been vouchered from Hillsborough County along the west-central coast and in Brevard County in the east-central portion of peninsular Florida. It has a wide distribution worldwide and is reported from Texas to California in the western US, from Mexico, and throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. It also has been introduced to parts of Asia and Australia.

Bladder mallow is a short-lived perennial that produces large numbers of seed in its bladder-like pods. It is an evergreen plant and reaches a mature height of about 3 feet.  The heart-shaped leaves alternate up these stems and average about 1-2 inches long and 1 inch across.  There are small teeth along the leaf margins and the surface of the leaves are velvety to the touch.

Flowering can occur at any time during the year. the small (about 1/2 inch across) pale yellow flowers have 5 petals and a pronounced set of female and male flower parts - as all hibiscus do.  Though rather small, they are attractive and attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. It also is a host plant for 2 species of hairstreaks - the gray and the mallow scrub. 

Bladder mallow is not as showy as many other members of this genus and that may be the reason it has not been offered for sale by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries or by other growers to my knowledge.  It could be a useful addition to a butterfly or pollinator garden if it was.  It should be easy to propagate from seed collected from the ripe capsules.  Although it is mostly a coastal species it is not very particular to its growing conditions.  

The above photos were taken by my friend and naturalist - Lily Byrd in south Florida, and are used by permission. 

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