Fruit of Malvaviscus arboreus – Manzanilla

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Malvavisus arboreus - Manzanilla

Malvavisus arboreus – Manzanilla


You might know this plant by the common name associated with its flower – Turks Cap.  Today we see its edible fruit, with its obvious resemblance to a small apple, hence the common names Manzanilla and Mexican Apple.  Manzanas of course, is Spanish for apples, and Manzanilla literally meaning “little apple” in translation.

The fruit is edible – I went back to look for this one a few days later and couldn’t find it. I assume it was eaten by a critter of some sort.

This illustrates some of the disadvantages of using common names for describing plants as well as some of the advantages of native plants in landscaping. The Malvaviscus arboreus provides nectar to hummingbirds and butterflies and other wildlife during its flowering stage, and fruit for wildlife after the bloom has gone. Having evolved in common with its habitat, it provides services to other living things that share that habitat.  It’s deciduous, so it sheds its leaves which decompose into compost, enriching the soil if given the chance.

Malvaviscus arboreus - Turks Cap

Malvaviscus arboreus – Turks Cap

It makes a good alternative to the exotic or alien Nandina which is ubiquitous in the nursery trade and has aggressively escaped into nature. Generally, folks advise cutting the dead wood back to about 1 foot somewhere around mid-February, but anytime after it drops its leaves is fine and should keep HOAs from finding fault with your native plantings.

It is shade tolerant as well as drought resistant, and also comes in a white-flowered variation.

Malvaviscus arboreus var drummondi – Turk’s Cap

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Malvaviscus arboreus var Drummondi - Turk's Cap

Malvaviscus arboreus var Drummondi – Turk’s Cap

This attractive flower blooms from May through November, although it was almost evergreen this past winter… we’ll never know because I pruned it back around February. Normally a deciduous perennial, it thrives in partial shade locations; the Tradescentia gigantea, Giant Spiderwort, which blooms earlier and then goes to seed makes for an excellent companion. Hummningbirds like it, bees and butterflies like it, but I haven’t seen any fleas, educated or not, on it. Both the flower and the fruit attract wildlife. I haven’t tried it, but it is supposed to taste like apple, hence one of its common names, Manzanilla.

Malvaviscus arboreus – Turks cap


Malvaviscus arboreus - Turks cap - detailFavored by hummingbirds and solitary bees, this lovely hibiscus-like flower (that never fully opens) does extremely well along a shady northern side of the house. Has not received supplemental watering throughout the drought.

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