Hibiscus moscheutos



  Wooly rosemallow on Bacon Island, California. 2007 Christopher Bronny.
Reeves, Sonja L. 2008. Hibiscus moscheutos. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].



crimsoneyed rosemallow
marsh mallow
swamp rose-mallow

wooly rosemallow
common rosemallow
eastern rose-mallow

The scientific name of crimsoneyed rosemallow is Hibiscus moscheutos L. (Malvaceae) [7,11,14,20,28,30,35,39,40]. There are 2 recognized subspecies :

Hibiscus moscheutos L. subsp. lasiocarpos (Cav.) O.J. Blanchard [9,19,20], wooly rosemallow
Hibiscus moscheutos L. subsp. moscheutos [9,20,30,39], common rosemallow

In this review, "crimsoneyed rosemallow" refers to the species. Subspecies are referred to by the common names listed above.

for Hibiscus moscheutos L. subsp. lasiocarpos:
Hibiscus californicus Kellogg [6,27]
Hibiscus lasiocarpos Cav. [11,15,18,28]
Hibiscus moscheutos var. occidentalis Torr. [14]

for Hibiscus moscheutos L. subsp. moscheutos:
Hibiscus incanus Wendl. [11]
Hibiscus palustris L. [35]
Hibiscus moscheutos L. subsp. incanus (J.C. Wendl.) Ahles [30]
Hibiscus moscheutos L. subsp. palustris (L.) Clausen [39]
Hibiscus moscheutos L. var. moscheutos [11,14]
Hibiscus moscheutos var. palustris (L.) Clausen [11]


No special status

Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1991. Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. South National Technical Center, Fort Worth.
Information on state-level protected status of plants in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe.


SPECIES: Hibiscus moscheutos

In February of 2008 an extensive search was done to locate information on crimsoneyed rosemallow with little success (see FEIS's list of source literature). The following paragraphs provide details of the available information.

Crimsoneyed rosemallow is native, occurring from Ontario, Wisconsin, and New York south to the Gulf of Mexico. Occurrences extend west to New Mexico, with disjunct populations in Utah and California [4,14,15,20,39]. NatureServe provides a distributional map of crimsoneyed rosemallow and its subspecies. The general distribution of subspecies of Hibiscus moscheutos is as follows:

Wooly rosemallow occurs from Illinois and Indiana south to New Mexico and Florida, with disjunct populations in California [20]. It is reported from one locality in Chihuahua, Mexico [4].

Common rosemallow occurs from Ontario south to Louisiana and Florida and from Kansas south to Texas, with disjunct populations in Utah [20].

Common rosemallow is a dominant species in the following tidal oligohaline marsh communities of Virginia [12]: Within salt scrub communities in Virginia, common rosemallow is also associated with groundsel-tree (Baccharis halimifolia), Jesuit's bark (Iva frutescens), saltgrass (Distichlis spicata), saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens), and southern bayberry (Myrica cerifera var. cerifera) [12].

Crimsoneyed rosemallow is common with narrow-leaved cattail on Fire Island, New York [10].


This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available (for example, [7,9,14,28,30,35,39,40]).

Crimsoneyed rosemallow is a shrubby, herbaceous perennial forb. It produces few to many stems (3-8 feet (1-2.5 m) tall) each year from a large, woody rootstock. Leaves are ovate to lanceolate, serrate, and 3 to 8.7 inches (8-22 cm) long. The leaves can be unlobed or with 2 lateral lobes. Flowers are borne on upper leaf axils and are ephemeral. Large plants can produce up to 20 to 30 open flowers daily at the peak of the blooming season. The fruit is a capsule [9,15,26,30,35] bearing hard-coated seeds less than 3 mm in diameter [5]. Crimsoneyed rosemallow has a short underground caudex with large storage roots attached [2,14] (see photo at right).

Common rosemallow is glabrous on the upper leaf surface and has glabrous capsules, while wooly rosemallow is pubescent on both leaf surfaces and has hirsute capsules [15]. Wooly rosemallow is rhizomatous in California [6].


Photo courtesy of Dr. Michael Knee, Ohio State University.
Crimsoneyed rosemallow regenerates from seed and by sprouting from the caudex [8,26]. Common rosemallow is not rhizomatous or stoloniferous [4,22,32]. Wooly rosemallow is sometimes rhizomatous [6].

Pollination: Crimsoneyed rosemallow is self-compatible and is pollinated by bees [4,8,26,32]. Bumblebees and solitary anthophorid bees (Ptilithrix bombiformis) are the most effective pollinators [4,32,34]. Studies in Maryland found Ptilithrix bombiformis pollinated the majority of common rosemallow flowers [4,34].

Breeding System: Crimsoneyed rosemallow has perfect flowers [8]. It produces a mixture of selfed and outcrossed seeds [26]. Within-flower selfing is unlikely due to spatial separation of anthers and stigmas, but between-flower selfing can occur. The potential for the latter is limited because only 1 or 2 flowers open on each shoot or branch tip on a given day [32,33,34]. Long-distance water dispersal of seeds may be important in interpopulation gene flow for crimsoneyed rosemallow [22]. Inland populations are probably more genetically isolated [21].

Seed Production: Crimsoneyed rosemallow produces, on average, about 120 seeds/capsule. Insect seed predators often consume the round, hard-coated seeds [33].

Crimsoneyed rosemallow seeds are parasitized by 2 beetles (Althaeus hibisci and Conotrachelus fissunguis) and a leafroller (Chinonodes hibiscella), which can adversely affect its reproductive success [4,8,21,34].

Seed Dispersal: Crimsoneyed rosemallow seed is dispersed by water [5,8,21,33]. High storm tides may carry seeds for long distances [5]. Seeds are thick-coated and buoyant, making water dispersal possible after they have fallen from the fruits [22]. The seeds may be dispersed by waterfowl [4,8]. Soil-hauling machinery may also transport crimsoneyed rosemallow seeds [8].

Seed Banking: Some evidence suggests that common rosemallow is capable of forming a seed bank. A study by Baskin and Baskin reports that common rosemallow seeds sown in 1989 continued to germinate, in a greenhouse setting, for 4 years [3]. Similarly, Leck and Graveline [25] report that viable common rosemallow seeds germinated from soils taken from a freshwater tidal marsh in New Jersey. Populations in interior Ontario probably established from soil-stored seed transported to inland sites as landfill [8].

Germination: Crimsoneyed rosemallow seeds have physical dormancy due to a hard seed coat that is impermeable to water [3,26]. Scarification is apparently needed for imbibition and subsequent germination to occur [26].

Vegetative Regeneration: Crimsoneyed rosemallow sprouts from the caudex [4,21,22,26,32]. Some western populations sprout from rhizomes [6].

Crimsoneyed rosemallow plants growing near shorelines can become fragmented and dispersed in floating plant clumps [8].

Growth: Accounting for herbivory, net aerial productivity of common rosemallow on the Choptank River of Maryland averaged 1,200 g/m/year. Time required for total decomposition of stem material was estimated at 7 to 8 years; about 5 times slower than stems of cattails (Typha spp.), bulrushes (Scirpus spp.), or common reed (Phragmites australis) [21].

Crimsoneyed rosemallow is common in marshes and wetlands [1,6,12,29]. In Virginia, common rosemallow also occurs in salt scrub habitats occupying higher, irregularly flooded landscapes in a mosaic with low, diurnally flooded saltmarshes that are strongly influenced by high winds and salt spray typical of maritime environments [12].

General site characteristics for crimsoneyed rosemallow
State or region Site characteristics
Florida marshes, swamps, floodplains, and riverbanks [7,40]
Michigan marshes, river bottoms, and often adjacent to disturbed ground [37]
New York freshwater and brackish marshes [10]
Texas wet areas [9]
Virginia tidal marshes and wetlands [12]
West Virginia riverbanks and marshes; frequent in coastal marshes [35]
Blue Ridge Mountains (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia) moist woods, meadows, and marshes [39]
Carolinas edges of swamp forests, alluvial meadows, and brackish marshes [30]
Great Plains marshes, swamps, and wet meadows [15]

Crimsoneyed rosemallow populations have been maintained, in the past, in early successional coastal habitats by wildfire, storms, and American beaver activity. It also thrives in areas where various human disturbances create open conditions. In Ontario, the open meadow marshlands favoring crimsoneyed rosemallow may be successionally replaced by common reed, shrubs, and trees in the absence of fire and/or seasonal fluctuations in water levels [8].

In Maryland, vegetative shoots of common rosemallow emerge in April [34]. Crimsoneyed rosemallow has a long flowering period, extending from late July into late September (review by [8]), [34]. Capsules take 3 to 4 weeks to mature [22], and most seeds are released from dehisced fruits in from late September to November [4,21,22,34].

Flowering periods for crimsoneyed rosemallow
State or region Anthesis period
Maryland July-Septmeber [21]
Florida June to August [7]
Illinois July to September [28]
New York July to August [10]
Texas June to October [9]
West Virginia July to September [35]
Blue Ridge (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia) June to September [39]
Carolinas June to September [30]
Great Plains June to October [15]

It is likely that crimsoneyed rosemallow is dependent on periodic burning and other natural and anthropogenic disturbances to decrease shading and create the early-successional, open habitats that favor crimsoneyed rosemallow. In Ontario, a combination of fire exclusion, marsh dyking and the resulting loss of fluctuating water levels, and water nutrient loading has probably encouraged successional replacement of crimsoneyed rosemallow by common reed and woody plant species [8]. Tidal habitats with crimsoneyed rosemallow rarely burn. Inland wetland habitats may burn in summer or fall after drying (for example, see [13,16,38]), but there was no published information about fire effects on crimsoneyed rosemallow as of this writing (2008). Crimsoneyed rosemallow's response to fire was also undocumented as of 2008. However, crimsoneyed rosemallow has large storage roots or rhizomes attached to the caudex, so it has large, protected food-storage organs that could support postfire sprouting. It is likely that crimsoneyed rosemallow survives fire by sprouting from the caudex, with some wooly rosemallow populations also sprouting from rhizomes. Postfire establishment from seed may occur, although little is known of the germination and seedling establishment requirements of crimsoneyed rosemallow.

The following table provides fire regime information that may be relevant to crimsoneyed rosemallow.

Fire regime information on vegetation communities in which crimsoneyed rosemallow may occur. For each community, fire regime characteristics are taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models [24]. These vegetation models were developed by local experts using available literature, local data, and expert opinion as documented in the PDF file linked from the name of each Potential Natural Vegetation Group listed below. Cells are blank where information is not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.
California Northeast Southeast
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
Minimum interval
Maximum interval
California Grassland
Herbaceous wetland Replacement 70% 15    
Mixed 30% 35    
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
Minimum interval
Maximum interval
Northeast Grassland
Northern coastal marsh Replacement 97% 7 2 50
Mixed 3% 265 20  
Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group) Fire severity* Fire regime characteristics
Percent of fires Mean interval
Minimum interval
Maximum interval
Southeast Grassland
Floodplain marsh Replacement 100% 4 3 30
Southern tidal brackish to freshwater marsh Replacement 100% 5    
Southeast Forested
Maritime forest Replacement 18% 40   500
Mixed 2% 310 100 500
Surface or low 80% 9 3 50
South Florida coastal prairie-mangrove swamp Replacement 76% 25    
Mixed 24% 80    
*Fire Severities
Replacement: Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed: Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects.
Surface or low: Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area [17,23].

Crimsoneyed rosemallow populations are favored by the drawdown and reflooding of lakes and marshes. When these areas are not periodically reflooded or low water levels become permanent, crimsoneyed rosemallow is threatened by populations of common reed and Typha glauca. Crimsoneyed rosemallow's survival is also threatened by the continued degradation of its coastal wetland habitat (review by [8]).

Northern bobwhites, blue-winged teals, pintails, and wood ducks consume crimsoneyed rosemallow seeds [4]. Red-winged blackbirds nest in common rosemallow (review by [21]).

Crimsoneyed rosemallow is sometimes used in wetland restoration projects in the eastern United States [26]. In cattail-bulrush (Typha-Scirpus spp.) marshlands in Canada, common rosemallow may help stabilize shorelines and provide wildlife habitat (review by [8]).

Further research is needed on all aspects of crimsoneyed rosemallow.

Hibiscus moscheutos: REFERENCES

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