Hairy Rose Mallow

Photo of hairy rose mallow flower
Scientific Name
Hibiscus lasiocarpos
Malvaceae (mallows)

A tall, perennial herb that sometimes develops woody stalks. One of the largest wildflowers in Missouri, about 6 inches across. Flowers resemble hibiscus flowers, with 5 petals and many protruding stamens united around the style, with a spreading head; petals white or rose with a central wine-purple spot. Blooms July–October. Leaves alternate, large, somewhat heart-shaped, rarely lobed, toothed, often with dense, fine hairs.

Similar species: Halberd-leaved rose mallow (H. laevis) has leaves shaped like halberds (an ancient type of lance with 1 long point at the tip and 2 shorter, spreading lobes pointing away at a sharp degree angle at the sides). Its petals are more commonly pink and the stems and leaves lack hairs. The two rose mallows have been known to hybridize.


Height: to 8 feet.

Where To Find
image of Hairy Rose Mallow distribution map

Mostly in eastern, southern, and southeastern Missouri; cultivated statewide.

Occurs in borders of lakes and ponds, sloughs, swamps, ditches, and wet lowlands. In addition to our two native rose mallows, a nonnative species sometimes escapes cultivation: Rose of Sharon (or shrubby althaea) (H. syriacus) is a woody, many-branched shrub or small tree that grows 3-18 feet high. Aside from landscape plantings, it is usually found along roadsides, railroads, thickets, and woods. Fortunately, it is not very aggressive.

This plant is a good native choice for the wet garden. Many of its relatives in the mallow family are economically important to people. Other mallows include cotton, okra, hollyhocks, hibiscus, and marsh mallow, the original medicinal plant used in making the sweet, fluffy confection.

The seeds are eaten by ducks and quail. Bees visit the flowers. The caterpillars of several butterflies and skippers feed on the leaves. Japanese beetles, a colorful but troublesome introduced pest, eat the leaves, too. Plants that grow in wet areas purify water and help prevent flooding.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!