Common name. Marshmallows. Family Malvaceae.
Habit and leaf form. Herbs (usually with simple to stellate indumentum). Plants unarmed. Annual, or biennial, or perennial; to 0.2–1 m high. Self supporting, or climbing; stem twiners. Mesophytic. Not heterophyllous. Leaves medium-sized; alternate; spiral; petiolate; non-sheathing; simple. Leaf blades dorsiventral; dissected (5–7-lobed); orbicular; palmately lobed; palmately veined; cordate. Mature leaf blades adaxially pubescent; abaxially pubescent. Leaves with stipules (stipules ovate). Stipules persistent. Leaf blade margins crenate, or serrate. Leaf anatomy. Hairs present; complex hairs present. Complex hairs stellate. Extra-floral nectaries absent.
Reproductive type, pollination. Fertile flowers hermaphrodite. Unisexual flowers absent. Plants hermaphrodite. Entomophilous.
Inflorescence and flower features. Flowers solitary, or aggregated in ‘inflorescences’; axillary; in racemes, or in panicles. Inflorescences axillary; flowers in axillary clusters, forming an irregular raceme. Flowers pedicellate; small, or medium-sized; regular; 5 merous; tetracyclic. Hypogynous disk absent. Perianth with distinct calyx and corolla; 10; 2 -whorled; isomerous. Calyx present; 5; 1 -whorled; gamosepalous; lobed; lobulate (5-lobed); erect, or spreading; hairy; valvate; exceeded by the corolla; regular; persistent; accrescent, or non-accrescent. Calyx lobes ovate, or triangular. Epicalyx present (of free bracteoles, shorter than the calyx). Corolla present; 5; 1 -whorled; polypetalous (adnate to the base of the staminal column); glabrous abaxially; glabrous adaxially; with contrasting markings (different coloured tips); white, or red, or pink, or purple, or violet, or blue (rarely). Androecium present. Androecial members indefinite in number. Androecium 50–100 (i.e. ‘many’). Androecial members adnate; all equal; coherent (connate; the filaments fused in a column surrounding the style); 1 - adelphous (the tube attached to the petals); 1 -whorled. Androecium exclusively of fertile stamens (or rather, half-stamens, each having only a half anther). Stamens 50–100. Anthers dehiscing via longitudinal slits; introrse; unilocular. Gynoecium 8–12 carpelled. The pistil 8–12 celled. Gynoecium syncarpous; synstylovarious to eu-syncarpous; superior. Ovary plurilocular; 8–12 locular. Gynoecium stylate. Styles 8–12; free; simple; apical. Stigmas 8–12 (decurrent on the adaxial side of the style). Placentation axile. Ovules 1 per locule.
Fruit and seed features. Fruit 8–10 mm long; non-fleshy; green (or brownish green or brown); hairy, or not hairy; a schizocarp (disc-shaped, dehiscing into in dehiscent mericarps arranged in a whorl with a depressed centre). Dispersal unit the mericarp (flattened, reniform in outline). Seeds 1 per mericarp.
Geography, cytology, number of species. World distribution: Africa, Europe, Asia and northern temperate America. Native of Australia. Not endemic to Australia. Australian states and territories: Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, and Tasmania. South-West Botanical Province. 2n = 24 for M. hispanica; 2n = 42 for M. aegyptia, M. moschata, M. neglecta, M. nicaensis, M. oxyloba, M. parviflora, M. pusilla, M. sylvestris and M. tournefortiana; 2n = 76 for M. pusilla and M. verticillata. A genus of c. 25–40 species; 1 species in Western Australia; 0 endemic to Western Australia.
Etymology. From the Latin for "mallow"; name applied to several similar plants.
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Western Australian Herbarium (1998–). FloraBase—the Western Australian Flora. Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/