Mallow family homecoming

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 12, 2018

Cotton bloom

Fertilized cotton bloom. Taken at the Gardner Farms in Macclesfield in Wilson County.

Okra bloom

At our family gatherings I often look at my relatives and wonder about my bloodlines. Ironically, the same can be said for plants; they can be in the same family and have entirely different physical growth characteristics.

However, they all may have one dominant characteristic.  There is a great example of this phenomenon blooming this month in our area. Cotton, okra and hibiscus are all first cousins, yet all are uniquely different. These plants fall within the mallow family which also includes hollyhock and linden trees.

The uniqueness of the mallow family is the commonality of their blooms. All mallow blooms have a funnel-shaped flower with five separate petals with a very distinct column of stamens surrounding the pistil in the center of the plant.

Hibiscus cultivars’ bloom size can vary from the size of a dinner plate, to blooms no larger than a quarter.

Okra has a very distinctive bloom that continuously provides us with a southern favorite vegetable. Their blooms have a dark splotch of black or deep red in the very center of the bloom.

Cotton blooms also have the distinction of blooming early with white petals and, as soon as pollination occurs, the blooms turn rosy pink to deep red.

There are about 4,225 species these cousins distributed nearly worldwide.