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Family: Malvaceae

Kingdom: Plantae Rank: Family Parent: Malvales Status: Valid

Common Names:

  • MALLOW FAMILY - English, United States of America

Morphological Description

Family Recognition in the Field: Usually herbs (2 species of shrubs) with alternate, usually palmately veined leaves and often with stellate pubescence; flowers with a conspicuous and unique stamen tube with numerous free anthers; petals separate, usually attached basally to the stamen tube; involucel of bracts often subtending the calyx.

Diagnosis: Ours annual or perennial herbs or shrubs often with mucilaginous sap, usually with simple, forked, stellate or lepidote pubescence; leaves alternate, usually palmately nerved, simple or rarely palmately compound, entire, toothed or lobed; stipules present, sometimes falling early; flowers solitary or clustered in the leaf axils or terminal in spike-like racemes or corymbs, radially symmetrical; sepals 5, united at least near base, often subtended by an involucel of separate or united bracts (called epicalyx); petals 5, free from each other but often fused to base of the stamen tube; stamens numerous; anthers free; filaments united into a tube at least near base and thus surrounding the ovary and styles, separate apically; pistil with 3-more carpels; ovary superior; fruit a capsule or schizocarp, rarely a berry.


Notes: A medium-large (1,800 species in 111 genera), cosmopolitan, but especially tropical family of herbs, shrubs, and some trees; there are usually stellate hairs and mucilage. It includes several economically important plants, Gossypium species (COTTON) and Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench (OKRA), as well as a number of showy ornamentals (e.g., Alcea-HOLLYHOCK, Hibiscus, and Malva-MALLOW). The family is related to Sterculiaceae, Tiliaceae, and the tropical woody Bombacaceae which includes BAOBAB (Adansonia) and KAPOK (Bombax and Ceiba) (Judd et al. 1994). The European Althaea officinalis L. (MARSH-MALLOW) yielded a mucilaginous sap that was converted into a foamy sweet confection-the original marshmallows. (subclass Dilleniidae)