Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Halberd-leaf Rosemallow - Hibiscus laevis   Allioni
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Section 6 » Order Malvales » Family Malvaceae
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AuthorAllioni
DistributionScattered over much of the Coastal Plain, but only rarely west into the eastern and central Piedmont, west to Rowan County.

This is an Eastern and Mideastern species, most frequent from IA south to TX and LA. Ranges east to PA and northern FL, though nearly absent from the Appalachians and much of the Piedmont.
AbundanceUncommon over most of the Coastal Plain, but fairly common to locally common in brownwater river floodplains (Roanoke, Tar, and Cape Fear rivers). Very rare in the Piedmont portion of the range. The NCNHP's State Rank of S2? is much too conservative, and the website editors suggest S3S4 instead.
HabitatThis is a species of wetland habitats, in NC most frequent on sand bars and mud bars in brownwater rivers, and along the margins and banks of such rivers. It is less often found in freshwater marshes and other damp ground such as openings in swamps and bottomlands.
PhenologyBlooms from June to August, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is one of the more robust, shrub-like herbs in the state, with several branches from the base, and stems often reaching 5-6' tall. The alternate leaves are quite large and mostly halberd-shaped, on long petioles. The blade is typically 3-lobed, with a long and elliptical to lanceolate middle lobe and single smaller side lobes at the base, triangular in shape, and with a rather truncate leaf base. The leaves are about 4-5" long and 2-3" wide. The large and showy flowers occur singly in upper leaf axils. Each is very pale pink to medium pink, with a dark red center, and with a spread of about 4" across. Some flowers can be pale enough that they can resemble the usually white (and larger) flowers (with a deep red center) of H. moscheutos; however, that species has mainly broadly ovate leaves, rarely with small side lobes. H. laevis is readily seen in summer by boating down one of several brownwater rivers in the Coastal Plain, especially if there are some sandbars present.
Taxonomic CommentsThe species was mostly known as H. militaris a few decades ago, as in RAB (1968).

Other Common Name(s)Halberd-leaf Marsh-mallow, Smooth Rose-mallow
State RankS2? [S3S4]
Global RankG5
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