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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - September 07, 2010

From: Kerr, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Information about a red-flowered Pavonia lasiopetala in central TX.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have grown Pavonia for years and just let it re-seed where it wants (and remove if I don't want it where it falls). This year I created a new 6 inch raised bed amended with compost and some manure (and bone meal since this is to be primarity an iris bed) below the existing pavonias. I left the new plants and they have bloomed beautifully this summer. Here's the question: in the midst of this bed of about 9 pavonias is one pavonia that is a different color - I would call it red. I have checked carefully and it is indeed a separate plant from the others. What caused this? Have I stumbled upon a new hybrid? I have a photo if you care to see it.

ANSWER:

Pavonia lasiopetala (Texas swampmallow), most commonly known as Rock Rose, is a native of Texas and Northern Mexico which typically bears pink flowers ranging from soft, baby pink to carmine rose.  The flower color of Rock Rose is usually a very attractive hot pink.  Since this is the only species of Pavonia commonly grown in Central and West Texas, this is probably the plant in your garden.  A red-flowered Rock Rose would indeed be an unusual find.

Many plants bear flowers of colors different from the norm for that species.  White-colored flowers are common on many species that normally bear flowers of other colors.  The causes of color variations can be genetic, nutritional, or a result of pathogenic processes.  Whatever the cause, plant enthusiasts often highly prize plants bearing flowers of a truly new color.

We have not seen a Pavonia lasiopetala with true red flowers.  Such a plant would probably be quite valuable in horticulture.  However, you should first ascertain that your plant is truly a Rock Rose.  There are red-flowered mallows native to Texas that could easily be confused with Rock Rose.  Please see our Plant Identification webpage for complete instructions on how to submit images for ID,

 

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