TURK’S CAP HIBISCUS Malvaviscus drummondii

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the downtrodden, he casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving ...” (Psalms 147:5-7a)

We have so much to thank God for: his power, his wisdom, and his mercy and grace. The wicked may fool us with their clever words and steal our treasures but they will not escape God’s ever present Spirit who sees, hears and judges.

TURK’S CAP HIBISCUS Malvaviscus drummondii

The turk’s cap hibiscus was a mystery to me for many years. A friend in Decatur gave us a sprig to transplant many years ago. We tried to move it once because our fig tree spread over its original locale. The transplant was successful, but the roots that were left sprouted and now we have two healthy clusters. Since the plant requires no maintenance and continues to bloom year after year, I decided to treat it as a wildflower.

About 10 years later, at a meeting of the local Master Gardeners, I learned the common name was turk’s cap hibiscus. This confirmed my suspicion that the plant was at least related to hibiscus. However, extensive searches of my library and the U. S. Department of Agriculture data base provided no clue to its botanical name. Several years later I finally found this species within the Mallow Family. My source, was “Wild Flowers of the United States” published in 1967 by the New York Botanical Society. (Rickett)

Technically it is in the genus Malvavicus, but many common names of wildflowers are inaccurate. Turk’s cap hibiscus is a lot easier to say than the tongue-twisting Malvaviscus.

The original plant has grown to a height of 6 feet and has a spread of 5 feet. It has many stems rising from the extensive root system. The upper parts of the stem are light to medium green but for the first two feet from the ground the stems are woody with light brown vertical streaks.

The leaves at the base are about 3 inches wide and heart-shaped. Farther up the stems and on the branches they gradually get smaller and moderately lobed. The blooms occur from the leaf axil on a light green pedicel as illustrated in the inset. Buds are odd shaped with five light green streaks marking the margins of the five petals to appear. Around the bud are 10 very small sepals, as pictured. At the same time, our plant has numerous shiny red 1/2 inch seed cases, also pictured.

Recently we have sold the house and moved to town but the new owners welcome us to show the wonderful wildflowers the still occupy the land.

Thanks be to God, who in wisdom and might has created an amazing natural world that keeps mystifying us with its diversity.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit The Sketching Pad in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.

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