In late summer when the water level nightly falls in ponds and swamps and rivers, and when the tall while egrets come wading in the shallows of the marshes, the halberd-leaved mallows bloom. Early in the bright summer morning, when the egrets are preening and stretching their wings in the tall dead trees beside the swamp - bright birds againsi a dazzling sky -the wet land below the roost trees is full of the newly opened blossoms of wild mallows. Early in the morning the dew is heavy upon them.
Hibiscus militaris Cav.
Summer Swamps, ponds.
The plants are tall and fibrous, three to six feet high. The leaves are alternate and are, as the name indicates, shaped like a halberd or pole-ax; they are roughly triangular. The flowers unfurl broadly in the early sunlighl of the summer morning pale, flesh-colored or pale pink flowers, five petaled, with a dark red blotch down in the bottom of the bell. The stamens are arranged around a central column which terminates in five separate stigmas on which insects often stop. After the pollen from another flower reaches the pistil, the flowers are furled again and turn a deeper pink before they fall. The seeds are hairy and are enclosed in an inflated pod which remains on the bush long into the winter. There in the frozen swamp where the cold winds rattle the raveling stalks of the mallow, the pods shake and the small brown seeds are thrown into the swamp mud. Some are eaten by mice and birds, others are unknowingly piked up on the feet of wading birds and muskrats next spring and are carried to other shore-. There, during the growing season, new mallow plants grow to extend their population through the wet places.
The velvety-leaved rose mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus) has flowers similar to the above hut the velvety leave- are heart-shaped. It is found along muddy shores of streams and ponds in the southern third of the state.