Virginia Saltmarsh Mallow

by Dr. Andrea Weeks

IMG_1869_aThe Virginia Saltmarsh Mallow (Kosteletzkya pentacarpos) was the focus of an MS thesis in the laboratory of ESP associate professor, Dr. Andrea Weeks. This native species grows on the Coastal Plain from Texas to New York and is being developed as a seed-oil crop for salinized agricultural fields.  Sara Alexander, MS Environmental Science & Policy ’10, investigated the morphological variation of the Virginia Saltmarsh Mallow across its range in the United States in order to test the circumscription of its four taxonomic varieties. Sara found that three of the varieties, all of which are distributed in Virginia, could not be distinguished reliably on the basis of either morphology or geography and synonymized these under the name Kosteletzkya pentacarpos var. pentacarpos. She also determined that Kosteletzkya pentacarpos var. smilacifolia warrants recognition as a separate variety based on its distinctive morphology and distribution, which is restricted to the Florida Everglades.  Her research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Castanea in 2012 and is cited in the newly published Flora of Virginia.