The Modiola Page

Modiola caroliniana (L.) G. Don

Malvaceae Info (Home)


Modiola is a widely distributed monotypic genus of perennial Malvaceous herbs.


The genus was introduced by Moench. in 1794, based on Linnaeus' Malva caroliniana. (Moench. invalidly renamed this as Modiola multifida, so, this, the type species, is correctly known as Modiola caroliniana (L.) G. Don.) A number of other species have been described within this genus, but most have either been reduced to synonymy with Modiola caroliniana, or transferred to Modiolastrum. The status of Modiola macropodia Phil. syn Malva macropodia Steud. is unknown to me.

Modiola is closely related to Modiolastrum.

The name is from the Latin modiolus (the hub of a wheel), and is a reference to the shape of the fruit.

Modiola is also a genus of molluscs.

Modiola caroliniana (L.) G. Don
 Carolina Mallow, Creeping Mallow, Crimson Mallow, Orange Hibiscus, Red-flowered Mallow, redflower mallow
 Creeping Mallow
 Bristle Mallow, Carolina Bristle Mallow, Creeping Mallow
 babosilla., escobillo, hiedra, Sánalo todo

Modiola caroliniana is an annual or perennial herb native to tropical America (to as far south as northern Argentina [6] and Chile) and warm temperate eastern North America, and widely naturalised elsewhere, including California [4], Arizona, Oregon, Massachussets, northern Spain and northwest Portugual, northern Morocco [12], South Africa [11], southern Peninsula India, Java [7], New Zealand and Chatham Islands, Australia (southern Queensland to southeast South Australia, Tasmania, southern Swanland (south west Australia) and Norfolk Island) and Hawaii [11]. It is present in at least some Caribbean and Atlantic islands, including Bermuda [7], Hispaniola [7] and Jamaica [7].

It is tolerant of both salt and drought. It is a weed of grasslands.

M. caroliniana has a tuberous rootstock. It has prostrate, hairy stems, rooting at the nodes, from which arise upright flowering stems. The leaves are variable, being 5-8 cm long, 2-5 cm wide, deltate to suborbicular-reniform in overall outline, varying from shallowly toothed, to deeply 3- to 7-palmately lobed, such lobes often themselves pinnately lobed. The 4-5mm long, ciliate, persistent, stipules are leafy in habit.

It flowers in late spring and summer. The flowers are borne solitarily or rarely in pairs in the leaf axils, on pedicels 2-4cm in length. The epicalyx is made up of 3, free, narrowly lanceolate, segments, borne about 1mm below the calyx. The calyx is composed of 5 broadly triangular-ovate sepals, is a little shorter than the corolla, and enlarges slightly in fruit. The corolla consists of 5 orange-red obovate petals, often red at the base, each 3-8mm in length, unnotched and adnate to the base of the staminal column. The staminal column is shorter than the petals, and yellowish in colour. The filaments, numbering 10-20, are borne solely at the tip of the column. When only 10 filaments are present they are united in five forked pairs; additional filaments are separately interposed. The stigmas, borne on filiform style-branches, are capitate.

The fruit is a schizocarp composed of roughly 20 (14-22) black, 2-seeded, reniform, mericarps, borne in a single whorl. The mericarps are dehiscent in situ (at least the upper half). They are about 4mm in length. The upper half has smooth lateral faces and a bristly dorsal face, and bears two stout spines; the lower half is glabrous, with rugose lateral faces. The seeds are glabrous, minutely pubescent, and about 1.5 mm long.

Synonyms of Modiola caroliniana include Abutilodes carolinianum (L.) Kuntze, Anoda strictiflora Steud., Malva caroliniana L., Malva decumbens Willd., Malva eriocarpa DC., Malva prostrata Cav., Malva urticifolia Humb., Bonpl. & Kunth, Modanthos caroliniana (L.) Alef., Modanthos decumbens (G.Don) Alef., Modanthos eriocarpa (DC.) Alef., Modanthos prostrata (Cav.) Alef., Modanthos reptans Alef., Modanthos urticifolia Alef., Modiola caroliniana var. brevipes Griseb., Modiola decumbens G.Don, Modiola erecta Lespinasse, Modiola eriocarpa (DC.) G.Don, Modiola fissistipula C.Presl, Modiola jaeggiana (K.Schum.) K.Schum., Modiola multifida Moench, Modiola prostrata (Cav.) A.St.-Hil., Modiola reptans A.St.-Hil. , Modiola urticifolia G.Don and Modiolastrum jaeggianum K.Schum..

Cytology: Modiola caroliniana has 18 chromosomes.

Toxicity: It is reported that Modiola caroliniana has been responsible for stock poisonings. The mode of toxicity was not stated, but may be nitrate toxicosis, as is sometimes caused by Malva species.


  • photographs at Texas A&M Library
  • photograph at Plant Protection Society of Western Australia
  • photographs at University of Auburn
  • photograph at New Zealand Butterflies
  • References

    1. INRA (Synonymy of the French Flora)
    2. International Plant Name Index
    3. USDA Plant Database
    4. Jepson Flora Project
    5. Flora Europaea Vol. 2
    6. Catálogo de los Plantas Vasculares de la Argentina
    7. C.D. Adams, Flowering Plants of Jamaica
    8. Harold William Richett, The Wildflowers of the US
    9. Isaac Sprague, The Genera of plants of North America (1848)
    10. K. Kubitzki and C. Bayer, The Families and Genera of Flowering Plants Vol. 5 (2003)
    11. Wiggins, Malvaceae, in Leroy Abrams, Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States Vol. 3 (1951)
    12. Valdes B., in Valdes, B., et al, Checklist of Vascular Plants of N Morocco (2002)


    If you have found any errors on this page, or have any further information about the genus Modiola then please contact me at