The Howittia Page

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Howittia Gallery

Introduction

Howittia is a monotypic genus of the mallow family (Malvaceae). Its single species is endemic to south east Australia.

Classification

The genus was erected by F. Mueller in 1855. Its relationships have been unclear, it having been placed in Hibisceae, Malveae or as incertae sedis. DNA sequence data places it as a member of a basal lineage of the Eumalvoideae clade (=Malvaceae s.s.), wherein it is the sister genus to Lagunaria, another monotypic Australian endemic genus

The genus was named in honour of Dr Godfrey Howitt, a Melbourne physician interested in botany. The specific epithet refers to the three celled seed capsules.

Howittia is also a genus of fossil brachiopods (lamp shells)

Howittia trilocularis F. Mueller
Australian Flag Blue Howittia

Hibiscus, from which it differs by the presence of a 3 lobed stigma and a 3 celled seed capsule.

The natural distribution of Howittia trilocularis is coastal New South Wales, coastal eastern Victoria and a small region of western Victoria, extending into the south eastern extremity of South Australia, where it is found in moist, well drained gullies.

It is a large shrub, growing to 3m in height. The flowers, which are 25mm in diameter, range in colour from lavender to violet and deep mauve, are borne on long tomentose stems in leaf axils. The individual flowers are borne on tomentose peduncles 3-4cm in length. In common with most mallows they have 5 petals. They are borne in late spring and summer. The 3 celled seed capsules which follow mature and open in mid- to late summer.

The leaf shape is variable, typically broadly lanceolate, but ranging to ovate cordate, and occassionally lobed. The upper surface is dark green and is indented along the veins. The under surface is covered with brownish hairs which are usually also present along the petiole and on the stem.

Cultivation

Howittia trilocularis is easily propagated and grown in a suitable environment.

It may be propagated from seed or softwood cuttings. Softwood cuttings may be taken in either late spring or autumn, with the best result coming from fresh shoots about 4 inches long. Rooting takes about 3 months. Germination from seed takes about 5 weeks.

Howittia trilocularis prefers a moist, well-drained, soil in a semi-shaded location. It is tolerant of full sun, but in such situations it is preferable to keep the roots cool by mulching. It has a degree of frost tolerance, but grows less well where exposed to frost. As such it is not usually suitable for cool temperate climates, except perhaps in sheltered maritime locations.

Images

  • photograph at Australian National Botanic Garden
  • photograph at Australian National Botanic Garden
  • scan at the Howittia Gallery on this site
  • scan of watercolour at National Library of Australia
  • Synonyms: There are no synonyms known to the author.

    References

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    If you have found any errors on this page, or have any further information about the genus Howittia then please contact me at webmaster@meden.demon.co.uk.

    © 2001, 2006 Stewart R. Hinsley