Friday, March 24, 2023

Mauve - Abutilon hulseanum


Mauve flower

Mauve (Abutilon hulseanum) is one of only two members of this widely occurring genus native to Florida.  The other member, coastal Indian mallow (A. permolle) has been vouchered only from extreme south Florida with a disjunct collection from Manatee County while mauve  has a sporadic distribution throughout peninsular Florida.  It also is reported from Louisiana, Texas, Mexico and the West Indies.  According to Kew Gardens, it is originally from Central America and probably Cuba and Florida.   After going through the photos and labels for specimens in the SIEnet database, the only occurrences in Florida that were convincingly in natural systems (as opposed to highly disturbed areas) were on shell mounds, dunes, and similar coastal sites.  Hence, its true natural distribution in Florida is likely confined to the west coast of the state. Regardless, throughout its current range it is most common to disturbed upland sites in full to partial sun.  In short, it is somewhat weedy by nature. That, of course, is not a value judgement but a statement of its ecological niche.

Mauve gets its rather drab common name from the color of its blooms. As can be seen in the photo above, the five petals (the standard number for plants in the Malvaceae) are a rosy pink in color.  These often start out as yellowish before they assume this color. The blooms are produced near the tops of the stout, almost-woody stems, from winter through late spring in Florida, though sporadic flowering can occur later in the year.  

Mauve is a perennial that reaches about 6 feet tall at maturity.  The erect stems are covered by stiff hairs and are rough to the touch.  Elongated stipules are present at the base of the petiole where it attaches to the stem and the leaves (like many members of this family) are heart-shaped and solitary.  They are normally about 2-3 inches long.

The seed capsules that form after flowering are technically called a schizocarp.  These turn dark brown to almost black at maturity and split open along the carpal lines.  Each contains 4-6 seeds per carpal.  

Mauve flowers attract the attention of a wide variety of pollinators, but it is not known as a host to any butterfly or moth native to our state.  Those that have incorporated it into their landscapes report that it can spread by seed if not contained, but it can make a useful and interesting addition if some care is taken to remove the seed capsules before they mature and split open.  This plant is easy to grow and forgiving of a wide variety of landscape settings except too much shade and wet soils.  It is infrequently offered by native nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.

Seed Capsule

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