MALVACEAE - The Mallow Family

The Mallow Family contains over 1000 species, found mainly in South America. They are herbaceous plants, shrubs or trees. The species of most economic importance is Cotton, the fruits of Hibiscus esculentus (Okra) are eaten, and many (Hibiscus, Abutilon, Hollyhock) are grown as garden flowers.

Characteristics of this Plant Family:

Leaves, Stem & Roots ~ The leaves are alternate, with leafy growths where they join the stem, and they are often hairy. The calyx is composed of five sepals, sometimes joined, with another row of false sepals beneath them. The leaves are often palmate and lobed or divided (Hollyhock), or undivided and toothed (Hibiscus).

Flowers ~ The flowers of this family are large and composed of five separate petals, usually rolled up together in bud or dying. The stamens and style form a long tube protruding from the centre of the flower, and the stigma at the end of the tube is divided.

Seeds ~ The seed capsule is inside the flower, with five or more parts joined together. The seeds may be hairy (Cotton), rounded (Hibiscus), flat discs (Hollyhock) or even a berry (Malvaviscus).

(Click here for more information and examples of seedpods in this Family.)

Members of this Family usually have:

Large flowers with five unjoined petals
Stamens and divided style protruding from the centre of the flower
Calyx of five parts with another false calyx below it

Back to the Introduction to Plant Families