Also Known As
Fen-Rose (3) 
Saltmarsh Mallow (2) 
Seashore Mallow (2) 
Virginia Fen-rose (2) 
Virginia Saltmarsh Mallow (a very common name for thisspecies) 

Order:   Malvales
Family:   Malvaceae
Genus:    Kosteletzkya
Species: pentacarpos

Florida n c s

Edible Parts
Flower Seeds Leaf Root
Animal Interaction
Bee Insect Hummingbird Butterfly
Other Uses
Cordage Fuel
This moisture-loving native perennial boasts showy bright pink flowers that begin from early spring to mid-summer through the fall. They can really light up the edges of ponds, saltmatshes, etc. I always love encountering these beauties. These are short-lived perennials, most plants dying before the age of four to six years old. Flowers may be eaten raw or tossed into salads. The leaves are tough when eaten raw and I have yet to try cooking them as a potherb to soften them up or to extract the thick mucilage from the fresh leaves to thicken soups. If you have ever eaten this species please contact me as. I rarely meet folks who have. The seed oil (rated at 22% in a 2015 study partially funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China) has been made into paints and varnishes and the production of biodeisel. The seed oil is being tested as a potentially edible nutritious oil in China. The stem fiber is made into string and nets, and the roots into a glue. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and many other types of pollenators visit the flowers. 


Useful Temperate Plants (6)  lists many edible uses for this species as follows: 
FLOWERS: A tea is made from the flowers. (6). "The following uses are recorded for Althaea officinalis, they are said to also apply to this species. Flowers - raw. Added to salads." (6).
SEEDS: The seeds might be used to produce an edible oil in the future. A 2013 Chinese study listed this species (synonym listed - virginica) as a "potential source of edible oil and proteins." (14).
LEAVES: "The leaves can be eaten raw but are rather fibrous and somewhat hairy, though the taste is pleasant. They are used as a potherb or to thicken soups. Leaves - raw or cooked." (6). 
ROOT:  "Raw or cooked.  A tea can also be made from the root, it is concentrated by boiling until it has a similar consistency to egg white. he water from the root is the most effective. The water left over from cooking any part of the plant can be used as an egg-white substitute in making meringues etc., it is also dried then ground into a powder, made into a paste and roasted to make the sweet 'marshmallow’. The root is used as a vegetable." (2). 


SEED = OIL = PAINTS and VARNISHES. (5). "It is a suitable feedstock for the production of biodiesel and ethanol with 22% oil content in seed." (11, 12). "Seeds of Kosteletzkya virginica (a synonym for this species) were composed largely of unsaturated fatty acids, high potassium, and low sodium." (13).
FIBER (from stems) for NETS, STRING. (5). 
ROOT = a GLUE. (5). 
IUCN writes, "Historially, the species (when the species together with  Hibiscus ponticus were abundant and widespread) was used for making of fibre and nets. A strong fibre is obtained from the stems. It is used for making string, nets, etc. A glue can be made from the root. An oil from the seed is used in making paints and vamishes." (5). 
It has been used for "reclamation of the salt-affected soils." (11). "The foremost merit of Kosteletzkya virginica is its strong salt resistance. It was reported that it was able to complete growth and development normally in soil with 0.3 to 2.5% sodium salt (mainly NaCl)." (11). 


Dr. Craig Huegel writes, "These flowers are attractive nectar sources for a wide variety of pollinators." (8). Hummingbirds nectar at the flowers. (2). A butterfly attractant. Ants are often found within the flowers. 

NATIVE TO: Dr. Craig Huegel writes, "A common occurrence in salt marsh and freshwater wetland habitats throughout Florida and the Eastern Seaboard." (8). Most counties across Florida. "Coastal areas from MD to FL to TX to Cuba ." (2).
HABITAT: "Brackish marshes, coastal plains, swamps." (2). "Stream edges." (8). "Coastal interdunal swale, disturbed upland and wetland." (9).
LEGAL & CONSERVATION STATUS: "Least concern." (4, 5). Its IRC south Florida status is rated at "Secure." (9). 
SYNONYM:  Kosteletzkya virginica. "Synonym(s): Kosteletzkya althaeifolia, Kosteletzkya pentacarpos, Kosteletzkya smilacifolia, Kosteletzkya virginica var. althaeifolia, Kosteletzkya virginica var.aquilonia." (2).
DESCRIPTION: "A coarse, hairy (short-lived" perennial" (2) sub-shrub. "Virginia fen-rose or seashore mallow is much-branched and angular in habit." (2).
LIFE SPAN: "It only lives about 5 years." (2).
HEIGHT: "It grows 3-5 ft. tall and spreads to 4 ft. in width." (2). I have seen some plants grow to over 6' tall.
LEAVES: Alternate. "Elongated diamond-shaped leaves." (8).
FLOWERS: Bisexual. Two inches wide. "Pink, terminal or axillary, stalked flowers with yellow stamens." (2).
"Its leaves are triangular-ovate with triangular lobes at the base. The hibiscus-like flowers are light pink and 3 in. across with a central column of yellow stamens." (2). "Flowers close at night." (2).
FLOWERING SEASON: Mainly "June through October." (2). Blooms may begin to appear in "late spring." (8).
LIGHT: Does best in full sun. Will flower in part shade.
SOIL pH: "Alkaline (pH>7.2) , Acidic (pH<6.8)." (2).
WATER: It "need wet soil to prosper." (8).
SALT TOLERANCE: "Moderately salt tolerant, though does best with high acidity." (2)
SOIL: "Prefers sand, but will tolerate clay." (2). "Seashore mallow adapts to less saline soils. The plant grows in brackish, swampy conditions, shallow standing water, or regular garden soil." (2).
PROPAGATION: "Seeds , Softwood Cuttings." (2). "Seeds germinate easily, particularly in warm (70 degree) soils. Wait for the capsule to turn brown and split open before collecting seed. Mature seeds are smooth and dark brown. Soak the night before planting. It may be necessary to dis-infest seeds of weevils before storing in sealed, refrigerated containers.: (2). "Tip cuttings, taken before flowering, will root." (2) 
NOTE: The Atlas of Florida Plants writes, "Populations in the Americas had been called K. virginica. Now the name K. pentacarpos is used since the American populations seem morphologically indistinguishable from the Eurasian populations (Blanchard 2008). Plants with narrower leaves (< 20 mm wide) with margins entire at the proximal half of the blade and reflexed lobes have been recognized as var. smilacifolia and endemic to peninsular Florida (Alexander et al. 2012), e.g. Jensen OS0563 (USF)."
RELATED SPECIES: There are an estimated 30 species in the genus. (10). There is just one other wild native Kosteletzkya here in Florida. It is the rare state-endangered, white flowered, Kosteletzkya depressa, the WHITE FENROSE. In Florida, it only grows in Miami-Dade and the mainland part of Monroe county. 

More Details

Flowering Calendar

Flower Color

Fruiting Calendar

Fruit Color

Aquatic Coastal Brackish Marshes, Stream Edges & Swamps

Plant Form
Herbaceous Deciduous Perennial Shrub
4 feet
Part Sun Full Sun
Sandy Clay
7.0 - 6.5
Salt Tolerant Flood Tolerant

Sources for acquiring

Dr. Craig Huegel writes, "This species is frequently grown by nurseries that specialize in wetland mitigation plantings, so it may not be difficult to locate." (8). 


(1) Atlas of Florida Vacsular Plants 
(3) Flora of North America 
(6) Useful Temperate Plants 
(8) Hawthorne Hill Wildflowers Blog 
(9) Regional Conservation 
(10) Wikipedia 
(11) Global Gene Expression of Kosteletzkya virginica Seedlings Responding to Salt Stress (a 2015 article "partially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China.") 
(12) Moser BR, Dien BS, Seliskar DM, Gallagher JL (2013) Seashore mallow (Kosteletzkya pentacarpos) as a salt-tolerant feedstock for production of biodiesel and ethanol. Renew Energy 50: 833–839. 
(13) Physiological Responses of Kosteletzkya virginica to Coastal Wetland Soil - A 2015 Chinese research article posted on researchgate. 
(14) Accumulation and Distribution of Zn in the shoots and reproductive structures of the halophyte plant species Kosteletzkya virginica as a function of salinity - A 2013 Chinese study. 
Last Updated: August 7, 2019

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