Carolina Bristle Mallow

Scientific Name(s): Modiola caroliniana
Abundance: plentiful
What: leaves
How: tea
Where: yards, fields, wastelands
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: minor
Dangers: beware poisonous mimic Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens)

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are arranged alternately along the stem.

Leaf Shape: The leaves of Modiola caroliniana are ovate to heart-shaped, often with a slightly lobed or undulating margin. Lobes become less pronounced as the plant matures.

Leaf Venation: Venation is palmate, with each lobe having a central vein.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margins are crenate or serrate, meaning they have rounded or sharp teeth respectively.

Leaf Color: Leaves are generally a medium to dark green.

Flower Structure: The 5-petaled flowers are solitary, 1/4" in diameter, and borne on long pedicels.

Flower Color: Carolina bristle mallow is notable for their bright orange to red color, with a yellow center.

Fruits: The fruit is a small, flat capsule containing several seeds. Young capsules are green, but turn dark as the mature.

Seeds: Seeds are tiny and numerous.

Stems: Stems are slender and can be either erect or sprawling but generally creep along the ground

Hairs: The plant has coarse hairs along the stems, leaves, and seed capsules.

Roots: Roots often grow wherever the stem's leaf junction touches soil.

Plant Height: Carolina bristle mallow typically grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches.

Carolina Bristle Mallow.



Close-up of flower and seedpod.

Surface portion of Carolina Bristle Mallow plus long runner.

Younger Carolina Bristle Mallow leaves are more deeply cleft/lobed than mature leaves.

The leaves feel coarse and the stem is hairy.

Close-up of the leaves.

The stem/runners of Carolina Bristle Mallow put down roots where it touches soil.

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Creeping through the grass of unkempt yards and just about anywhere else where other plant life doesn't tower over it, Carolina Bristle Mallow is found all over Texas...or at least anywhere there's enough rainfall to support grass. The plant looks and feels unappealing, with its coarse, scratchy leaves and stiff, hairy stem. While this plant looks a bit like the highly nutritious Malva neglecta, Carolina Bristle Mallow is unrelated and doesn't have a similar high vitamin, mineral, and protein content. In fact, it's not even in the Malvaceae family but rather the lone member of its own unique genus, Modiola.

It's not a plant one adds to salads nor is there any record of anyone cooking it. Its only common use is to make a refreshing cold tea by soaking the shredded leaves in water for a couple of hours, staining, then serving over ice. This tea was drank by Natives and settlers to fight overheating as there's some suggestions that it lowers the initial sweating temperature of its drinkers. The sooner one starts sweating, the more heat they can dump from their body as long as they are drinking enough water to stay well hydrated.

Don't mistake young, toxic Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) for Carolina Bristle Mallow. Creeping Buttercup leaves have deeper clefts and a shinier, light-green color growing up from a single taproot. Remember, Carolina Bristle Mallow puts roots down anywhere its stems touch soil. If you aren't sure what you have, wait a few weeks to see how the plant grows. If it develops yellow flowers and sharply cleft leaves it's the toxic Creeping Buttercup.

Carolina Bristle Mallow on the left. Creeping Buttercup on the right.
Carolina Bristle Mallow - Creeping Buttercup

Young, toxic Creeping Buttercup.
Creeping Buttercup

Mature, toxic Creeping Buttercup.
Creeping Buttercup

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