Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Velvetleaf mallow

with 22 comments

Still another species that I found adjacent to the Arbor Walk Pond on the gray afternoon of November 8 was Allowissadula holosericea. The species name is a made-up Greco-Latin compound that means ‘all silky,’ a reference to the plant’s large leaves that are covered all over with soft hairs. That feature has led to the species’ common name of velvetleaf mallow, and I can attest, from years of irresistible touching, that the leaves really do feel like velvet.

For more information about velvetleaf mallow you can visit the websites of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the USDA. The map at that second site shows that in the United States this species grows a little bit in New Mexico but otherwise only in Texas, with Austin being at the eastern edge of its range. Lucky Austin, lucky me.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 17, 2011 at 5:24 AM

22 Responses

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  1. Fantastic view!



    November 17, 2011 at 6:23 AM

  2. I’m not much for the fancy hybridized hibiscus types sold in the nursery. This is glorious, and the overcast day seems to have made it shine all the more! ~ Lynda


    November 17, 2011 at 6:26 AM

    • I’m glad you appreciate this genuine mallow, Linda. You’re right about the color looking good on an overcast afternoon; yellow on a sunny day can be blinding (and hard to photograph).

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2011 at 7:03 AM

  3. One of my favorite native mallows. It survived this past summer in my super dry prairie. It did bloom and I am looking forward to collecting seed to share with local growers. This is definitely a native that should be in most people’s gardens. It is not a “bully”.

    Agnes Plutino

    November 17, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    • I’m glad yours survived, Agnes. Like you, I’d be happy to see more people planting velvetleaf mallow. Native plant gardeners should be reassured by your comment that it’s not a bully.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2011 at 12:49 PM

  4. Beautiful flower. Love the yellow, and I appreciate how clear I can see the veins on the petals.


    November 17, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    • Thanks, Gracie. I usually try to bring out details like the veins, but the low light made it more difficult than usual.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2011 at 12:51 PM

  5. Lovely photo. I saw a special a few years ago about Lady Bird Johnson and her love of wildflowers. If I remember correctly, she wanted wildflowers throughout Texas. I appreciate her work.


    November 18, 2011 at 3:55 AM

    • Thanks. You’re correct about Lady Bird Johnson. She was a prime mover of the Wildflower Research Center, which was later renamed for her. What used to be Town Lake, which she was active in beautifying with native plants, became Lady Bird Lake after her death a few years ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2011 at 6:36 AM

  6. That’s a beauty! I sure do envy all of the flowers that you have blooming this time of year!


    November 18, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    • I’m still finding plenty of them: hurray for Austin. Yesterday I even came across a species of wildflower I don’t think I’ve ever photographed before. The weather forecast is predicting a high temperature tomorrow near 80°. Come on flowers, do your thing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2011 at 5:26 PM

      • I guess flowers do better there at 80° than here at 8°, although we still have a couple of blossoms that are still looking fairly good.


        November 18, 2011 at 8:43 PM

      • Those must be some super blossoms if they can survive after 8°.

        Steve Schwartzman

        November 18, 2011 at 8:58 PM

  7. I didn’t know Town Lake had been renamed – they certainly made a good choice.

    I’ve never before thought about the fact that “marshmallow” might in fact be “marsh mallow” – and indeed it is! No doubt they’re related to your velvet mallow – which is a beautiful flower, indeed.

    I’m sure you know all about the Egyptians’ use of the sap to make the confection, which apparently had medicinal properties. Unfortunately, gelatin is used today instead of sap, so no more sore-throat curing with the marsh mallow! See how much I learn here?


    November 18, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    • The Austin City Council proposed the renaming very shortly after Lady Bird Johnson’s death.

      The etymologist in me is glad that you thought about marshmallow being marsh mallow. People in times past were usually intimately connected with nature, and so it was natural to name human creations after similar things in nature. I didn’t know about the Egyptians’ use of the sap to make the confection; thanks for letting me (and us) know. You’re right that velvetleaf mallow (whose leaves I know you’d enjoy touching) is a relative. And here comes the etymologist again: our word mallow, which entered the language when it was still Old English, came from Latin malva. That word evolved in French to mauve, which English has borrowed as a color word. Of course not all mallows are mauve in color, as the yellow-orange velvetleaf confirms.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2011 at 11:11 PM

  8. You have done such a marvelous job of photographing this gorgeous, deep yellow, which combined with the structure of the flower itself reminds me of our wild yellow marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) as well as the globeflower in my garden, whose scientific name I don’t know. I wonder if they are all related?

    Cindy Kilpatrick

    November 19, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    • Thanks for your comment, Cindy. I wasn’t familiar with Caltha palustris, so I looked it up and found it’s in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), which includes the American globeflower, Trollius laxus, as well. In contrast, velvetleaf mallow is in the mallow family (Malvaceae).

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2011 at 10:20 AM

  9. Thank you for pointing me to your Forageporage post. Very good explanation, nicely aligned with the chimps.

    Cindy Kilpatrick

    November 19, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    • I’m glad you enjoyed that post about convergent evolution, Cindy, and the way I tied in the story about the chimps that I remember reading in high school.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2011 at 8:27 PM

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