The Lavatera Pages :
Australian Hollyhock

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Lavatera plebeia Sims
English (Australia) Australian Hollyhock, Flood Mallow, Native Hollyhock
German Flutmalve

Lavatera plebeia Sims, known vernacularly as the Australian Hollyhock or Flood Mallow, is an Australian species, sometimes found growing wild (as a wool-alien), in Britain, and occasionally cultivated as an ornamental.

Range of Lavatera plebeia

Estimated range of Lavatera plebeia, with documented localities marked.

flowerPublished descriptions of the plant are varied, from which it is deduced that it is a variable species.

The described life cycle varies from ephemeral through annual and biennial to (short-lived) perennial. The habit is described as varying from a herb through sub-shrub (woody at the base) to shrub.

It has an annual to short-lived perennial life-cycle, and can be grown in cultivation as an annual or biennial. It has a herbaceous to sub-shrubby habit, with erect to decumbent stems extending to 1m (occasionally to 2m); the younger parts are sparsely stellate-pubescent. The foliage is light to mid-green in colour, nearly round, up to 6" across, shallowly to deeply (palmately), 3-7, lobed, and serrate. In damp environments the upper surface of the foliage is green and smooth; in dry environments it is grey and densely felted with stellate hairs on both sides. Intermediate forms are often found. The varietal names plebeia and tomentosa are given to the two forms.

The flowers are white to lilac, extending to pink, mauve or magenta, with petals 12-25mm long, and occur solitarily or in clusters in the leaf axils.

In cultivation it is grown as an annual or biennial border plant, or as a short-lived perennial (where it is suitable as a background plant in a rockery). It is fairly tolerant of soil type, but its natural habitat suggests that it would be unhappy in badly drained sites. Even so, it has been recommended as a marginal plant for water features. (Provenance may affect its suitability for cultivation in various sites.)

Synonyms: Synonyms for Lavatera plebeia include Althaea plebeia (Sims) Schultes ex Steudel, Lavatera australis Walp., Lavatera behriana, Lavatera hispida Sims, Lavatera preissiana Miq., Lavatera weinmanniana Bess., Malva australiana M.F. Ray, and Malva behriana Schlecht.

  • photograph at Tropical Environment Studies and Geography, James Cook University
  • photograph at FloraBase (Western Australia)
  • photographs in Lavatera Gallery
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    © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 Stewart Robert Hinsley