The Dry Garden: Native mallows

Posted on | January 23, 2010 | No Comments

Few plants better connote the sheer luxuriance of the California dream as hibiscus. It comes from a clan of plants known as mallows native to the tropics, where, University of Texas botanist Paul A. Fryxell says, this family finds its “greatest richness.”

Fryxell is an authority on mallows, a family that he says has more than 100 genera with cousins around the world, capable of tolerating situations as diverse as the high climes of the Andes, hot and dry Palm Desert and the mediterranean climate of coastal California.

Talk to Fryxell and it soon becomes clear why hibiscuses in Southern California needn’t be a guilty pleasure, even though they’re tropical. Thanks to their robust root systems, many can go with only occasional deep watering during dry season. Once established, they are happiest when treated like trees.

For Californians, he also points to our native mallows. Those who haven’t expanded from hibiscus to native globe mallow (Sphaeralcea), bush mallow (Abutilon), chaparral mallow (Malacothamnus) or tree mallow (Lavatera) have a heady pleasure before them. No plants do a better job of bringing almost year-round pointillist beauty to a garden landscape. To keep reading on native mallows in the The Dry Garden, click here to be taken to the Los Angeles Times.

Or if you are seeing lots of intriguing mushrooms in your garden after the rain, click here for a description of common fungi from the Southland’s foremost mycologist Florence Hendler. To find out about Hendler’s upcoming course on fungi identification, click here for the California Native Plant Society, Los Angeles and Santa Monica Mountain Chapter and scroll down for details to the left of the screen. Or for the Mushroom Fair of the Los Angeles Mycological Society hosted by the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, click here.

To everyone venturing out after a splendid week of rain, happy gardening.

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