A long the coast.
Flowers: large; seven to eight inches in diameter; solitary. Calyx: of five green sepals surrounded by an under layer of twelve slender, pointed bracts. Corolla: of five pink petals that become magenta at the base. Stamens: innumerable; growing out from all sides of a formation wrapped about the style. Pistils: five united into one. Stigmas: five; resembling tiny mushrooms. Leaves: on petioles; the larger and lower ones three-lobed; the upper ones ovate; downy underneath. Stem: erect; high, reaching six and eight feet.
In late August, when the rose mallow rises to its stately height among the tall grasses of the salt marshes, the passer-by pauses and gives it the admiration it claims. Undoubtedly it is the most gorgeous of all the plants indigenous to the United States. An old gentleman who had loved it from childhood always said of it: "It is the flower that I take off my hat to." And he did not regard it as inferior to the Chinese rose hibiscus which is cultivated in our greenhouses. It is from the petals of the latter species that the women in China extract the black dye to colour their teeth with. Although at a great distance the large flowers of our plant can be seen, it is often difficult of approach. Positive terror seizes hold of the timorous, and their ardour for it is often tossed in the balance with the fear of snakes. Once plucked, it fades quickly, closes its petals and droops its head as though in sorrow at the loss of its own environment.
Growing side by side with the rose mallow will often be found its white sister, whose centre is a deep crimson and whose stem is highly coloured. It is a common error to call these plants "marsh-mallow," which is properly, Althaea officinalis, and which grows in the borders of salt marshes on the Eastern coast. It is a much more rare plant than the rose mallow and is possessed of medicinal properties. From its mucilaginous substance the famous confection of marsh-mallow is made.