Photographs by Richard H. Wiegand
The Virginia Mallow likes its habitat unstable. Loose sandy or rocky soils of scoured riversides and floodplains, and disturbed areas along roadsides and railroad banks are its favorite places. In Maryland, this extremely rare perennial is found in a few location along the Potomac River and along the Susquehanna River in Cecil County.
One reason for its status as State Endangered (and globally vulnerable) is its choice of location. Anything that will interfere with a river’s flow, such as a dam, will reduce the amount of disturbance it needs in its natural habitat. Another issue is competition. Virginia mallow likes to hang out in the same disturbed habitats as invasive exotic species like Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and Multifora rose (Rosa multiflora).
Luckily for Virginia mallow, it has a high rate of seed production and viability, meaning it can come back from decline given the right conditions. Our job then is to provide the right conditions: limit human activities in known locations, allow the rivers to run, be aware of non-native invasive species.
As you enjoy the recreational opportunities along Maryland’s rivers, keep an eye out for a 3 meter tall plant with white flowers. You might just find a rare plant species./p>
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