Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Why is velvetleaf mallow called velvetleaf mallow?

with 25 comments

Velvetleaf Mallow Leaf Underside 9814

Why is Allowissadula holosericea called velvetleaf mallow? Because it’s a mallow whose leaves really do feel like velvet. Here’s a closeup of a square inch or so of a leaf’s underside. It’s all those little hairs that create the feeling of softness when touched.

The made-up species name holosericea means ‘all silky,’ but I wouldn’t describe the feel of one of these leaves as silky (even if velvet can be made from silk). Maybe whoever coined the term couldn’t find a Greek or Latin word for ‘velvety.’

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2013 at 5:59 AM

25 Responses

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  1. Really nice study in texture. Just the right lighting to give the thing a three-dimensional quality which reminds me of a Scanning Electron Micrograph. D

    Pairodox Farm

    October 29, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    • Now if you can find a way for me to carry a scanning electron micrograph around with me on my jaunts in nature, I’ll be sure to post pictures I take with it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2013 at 6:40 AM

  2. Ooooh, fuzzy :).


    October 29, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    • I wish I could send this fuzziness through the Internet to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2013 at 7:09 AM

      • I would like a whole blanket like that :).


        October 29, 2013 at 7:12 AM

        • The leaves of this plant can be on the large size, but they’re not large enough to blanket a person. I guess you could stitch a bunch together, or you could find a way to miniaturize yourself and hope a spider or bug doesn’t get you while you’re luxuriating on your fuzzy leaf.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 29, 2013 at 7:25 AM

  3. That’s a good close-up shot. I was wondering why so many hairs. What is their purpose? I suppose they could provide some measure of protection with their softening effect. There is a weed we always find here in row crop country called button weed, or velvetleaf.

    The hairs on it are in conjunction with a gland that releases a toxic substance. Quoting…
    “Velvetleaf contains allelopathic (toxic) chemicals that inhibit water uptake and chlorophyll production in many crop plants, especially soybeans. These chemicals are found in the microscopic glands at the base of the stem hairs. Rainfall washes the chemicals off the plant and into the soil, where they exert their toxic effect.”

    There you go again. You’ve instigated a learning experience before I’ve even had breakfast. Luckily, I had some coffee. 🙂

    Jim in IA

    October 29, 2013 at 7:09 AM

    • From your link I see that Abutilon theophrasti is an invasive from Asia and that it has spread over much of North America. I did a bit more searching and was dismayed to find the alien species has been found in my county, which means that I may have mistaken it for a native Abutilon species. I’ll have to look for a botanical key to be able to identify the invasive and distinguish it from any native relatives. Thanks for the alert, and for the reciprocal learning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2013 at 7:21 AM

  4. A strong abstract that has a story or two to tell.


    October 29, 2013 at 8:43 AM

  5. I love macro photography! Well done!


    October 29, 2013 at 12:04 PM

  6. There is a picture worth a thousand words. I like plants with hairy leaves although there is one I am not so fond to touch…..Urtica dioica. 😦 Nasty little trichomes full of histamine. Holy crapoley!…..they are painful Anyway, these little hairs look very inviting and benevolent.

    Steve Gingold

    October 29, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    • We have several species of nettles here, and with all the time I spend sprawled on the ground taking pictures, I’ve had an occasional run-in with those stinging hairs too. With that and cacti and fire ants and various other Texas delights, I long ago learned to carry a little tube of cortisone or benzocaine cream in my camera bag. As you say, though, the little hairs on velvetleaf mallow are benign, hooray, and I rarely pass a group of these plants without touching them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2013 at 4:15 PM

      • Your comment reminded me….I used to have a cactus filled green house many years ago. One day a friend brought a friend to visit my plants. His friend was blind and, as you know, would sometimes “see” things with his sense of touch. You know how all those little opuntia hairs will cover your skin with the slightest of brushes? Not this guy. He could run his fingers over any type of cactus without any of that thorny problem the rest of us experience. I do think fire ants would be an entirely different experience though.

        Steve Gingold

        October 29, 2013 at 4:24 PM

        • That’s quite a story. Given the choice, I think I’d stay with my sight and occasional glochids in my skin.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 29, 2013 at 4:30 PM

  7. Amazing to see much detail in this macro close-up. Indeed velvety!

    M. Firpi

    October 29, 2013 at 9:20 PM

  8. Since silk velvet *is* made up of zillions of silk fibers, the name still suits, just in a more macroscopic way than usual perhaps.


    October 31, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    • I’ll leave all considerations of fabrics to you who know about such things while I keep on fabricating photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2013 at 6:45 PM

  9. You’ve really captured the velvet feel with this photo. Nice.

    Susan Scheid

    November 9, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    • Hi, Susan. As I’ve said about other things, I’m sorry not to be able to send the feel over the Internet to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2013 at 7:43 PM

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