Virginia Swamp Mallow, Pretty in Pink and Diesel Powered

16 Aug

Kosteletzkya pentacarpos (better known as K. virginica)


Kosteletzkya - John's photo. Can you pronounce it?

Kosteletzkya – John’s photo. Can you pronounce it?

Yesterday John and George hankered for scrub, so we wandered the dunes of Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge across the Intracoastal Waterway from the Isle of the Rich and Famous, none of whom read this blog.  An extra bonus of HSNWR, even if tough to see, is a brackish coastal pond nestled among the desert dunes.  Decorating the wet oasis is a pretty shrub fond of brackish wetlands, Virginia Swamp Mallow.

The flat fruit. Photo from Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

The flat fruit. Photo from Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

The shrub looks like a Hibiscus and is related, differing by having the woody capsule squashed flat, and splitting to release the seeds along the middles of the seed chambers as opposed to splitting at the edges.  No doubt every reader will remember this gripping detail!

Spotting Virginia Swamp Mallow is a treat, standing tall with big eye-grabbing pink blossoms.  The flowers exemplify textbook hummingbird-pollination, and the hummingbirds do hum there.  But life never obeys the textbooks.  Bee and butterfly visitation are reported too.  More interestingly, the flowers have a self-pollination backup system.  If the birds and bees disappoint, the stigmas (the five pollen-receptive knobs visible in the photo below) curl down to the pollen-producing anthers (the yellow organs below the stigmas) and take care of business independently.  Floral closure at the end of the day helps with the selfies.

The blossom, by John Bradford. The stigmas are the five lobes at the tip of the central column.  These are surrounded by hundreds of yellow anthers  along the column shaft.

The blossom, by John Bradford. The stigmas are the five reddish lobes at the tip of the central column. These are surrounded by hundreds of yellow anthers along the column shaft.

Bioengineers like self-pollinated salt-tolerant species.  The hungry world has expanding areas of under-utilized salinized (salty) soil, and brackish irrigation water is increasingly plentiful though obviously not applicable to many crops.  Problem?  Opportunity?  One forgiving salt-tolerant crop is today’s Kosteletzkya; its seeds are miniature oil wells.  Black gold!  Texas tea!  Lucrative opportunity!

A recent U.S. patent is dedicated to improving and farming Kosteletzkya and reaping diesel juice.  As a side thought, there must be a fine line between freely farming a posie and squeezin’ its seeds, and enforcing a patent claim onto the little gushers!  (Maybe someday we’ll have Roundup-Ready Swamp Mallows.)

One place where the squeezin’ occurs, at least at an experimental level, is coastal China with spreading tidal marshes where you can generate green fuel using crowd-pleasing flowers, stabilize the soil, and empower diesel-fueled migratory fowl.

Now for the daydreaming.   That today’s pinkie oozes oil is no surprise, given a close relationship to cotton, as in cottonseed oil.  And, speaking of China, they already grow much cotton there.  Cottonseed oil is in the diet in parts of China, where it has caused temporary (I hope) male sterility.  Or to the glass-is-half-full crowd, a potential male oral contraceptive.  So on top of all the other wonders, could a Hobe Sound swamp bush loaded with unsaturated fatty acids have a future as Newman’s Own Reduced-Baby Salad Dressing?  Call my patent attorney!




A tree house, taken in Las Vegas last week in honor of our blog friend Uncle Tree, and his wonderful and popular poetic blog Uncle Tree’s House.



Posted by on August 16, 2014 in Kosteletzkya, Virginia Swamp Mallow



9 responses to “Virginia Swamp Mallow, Pretty in Pink and Diesel Powered

  1. Uncle Tree

    August 16, 2014 at 11:37 am

    The world’s funniest man has passed on the baton to a select few among us.
    Thank you, George! For continuing to run the race to the tree house on the Funny Farm.

    “I am honored today, folks! A fellow barker has brightened my day!” Much appreciated, G!
    “A slick and humor-filled lesson, right here, on the future of the world, and its dependence on us.”

    The Swamp Mallow’s blossom bears a strong resemblance to Big Bird, btw. 🙂 Good shot, John!

    Have a great weekend, fellers! Continuing to smile for all its innate worth, Uncle Tree

  2. Laure Hristov

    August 16, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Great article as always, but I have one question? Are Mosquitos allergic to you or do you own stock in Mosquito repellent? I can’t even go in my own garden in the middle of the day!

  3. George Rogers

    August 16, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    We seldom run into serious mosquitoes except in selected habitats. They’re out there, but sometimes suburban yards are buggier then the natural areas.

  4. Steve

    August 17, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    hmmm, malvaceae causing male sterility, makes me wonder about the effects of Louisiana gumbo.

  5. George Rogers

    August 17, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    It’s a free vasectomy.

  6. John Ericson

    August 22, 2014 at 11:57 am

    So out I went and photographed the Rose Mallow in our tiny Virginia marsh. Apart from being the pretty flower I look for each summer, I had no idea about all its other traits …!

    • George Rogers

      August 22, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      Every plant out there has some odd feature!

  7. Chris Lockhart

    March 19, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Just got your notice about being on sabbatical. Hope you’re doing something fun!


  8. George Rogers

    March 19, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    Writing a (in-house, localized) botany textbook and companin web site…super-fun! Back to basics, what a round-trip. Hope all’s swell with you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: