What is Malope?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Malope is a plant genus consisting of only three species, one of which is often used as an ornamental plant. The plants are M. trifida, M. malacoides, and M. anatolica, and they are known to grow in the western Mediterranean region of the world. At least one species, M. anatolica, is rarely seen in the wild and is considered an endangered species as of 2010.

The species commonly used as an ornamental garden plant is Malope trifida, whose seeds are widely distributed to gardeners around the world. It is native to northwest Africa, but some botanists believe it is also native to south Portugal and southwest Spain. Owing to introduction, it has naturalized in Europe and Malta. In the wild, the flowers of this plant are a striking deep purple to red, but they are pink, red, or white in cultivation. Numerous cultivars are available to grow these plants in different colors and sizes.

This species of Malope, M. trifeda, is considered a good garden plant for several reasons. It often blooms for two months straight, requires little maintenance even when starting from seed, and tolerates varying amounts of heat and humidity. Normal or moist soil containing sand or clay and partial shade to full sun are preferred for its ideal growth. Its maximum height is around 3 feet (1 m), and it can be grown on slopes and seashores. One should water it regularly, but no more than average, as over-watering can be fatal to the plant.

Malope malacoides is native to west Asia; however, as of 2010, it can be found in Europe in some provinces of Spain, Italy, and western Ukraine. In cultivation, the flowers of this plant are a very deep rose color, but in the wild the species shows much more variety in size, shape, and color. Due to this, some botanists have dubbed these subspecies with names, but it is debatable whether these subspecies should be officially recognized. This plant is usually found in thickets and olive groves, preferring an abundance of shade. Some insects depend on this plant for food, including the rosy grizzled kipper, a species of butterfly.

As this is an endangered species, sightings of M. anatolica in the wild are extremely rare as of 2010. It is a hairy annual plant that grows to roughly 1 foot (0.3 m) in height. The flowers of this plant are blue-red, with petals that are up to twice the length of its sepals. Cultivation of this plant is also rare, as seeds are not often distributed.

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