Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the December 19, 2010 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

What a large number of weedy, herbaceous or semi-herbaceous, small flowered, yellow-orange-petaled members of the Hibiscus Family, the Malvaceae, there are. A sprig of a shoulder-high one next to the hut is shown above.

This species is similar to North America's Velvetleaf, but different in subtle ways. Its leaves are a little velvety, but not as much so as Velvetleaf's. A flower close-up showing the stamens' filaments fused together at their bases above a fuzzy ovary is shown below:

Viscid Mallow, BASTARDIA VISCOSA, flower

A fruiting head showing six or seven very hairy, split-open capsules called schizocarps is shown below:

Viscid Mallow, BASTARDIA VISCOSA, fruiting head

I couldn't identify this plant until it fruited, so I could see the details very nicely apparent in that last picture. Mainly, notice that within each of the six or seven split-open schizocarps there's just one hairy seed. Closely related Velvetleaf, genus Abutilon, produces two or more seeds in each capsule.

Our mystery plant is the Viscid Mallow, BASTARDIA VISCOSA, sometimes also just called Bastardia.

* My guess as to how the genus got its name was wrong, In 2015, Cyril Nelson writes from Spain that: "... the genus Bastardia was dedicated to the French botanist Toussaint Bastard (1784-1846)."

Of course we nice people stumble over the name Bastardia. However, back in 1822 when the name was first published by German Carl Sigismund Kunth, that word which if I write it here will cause many email filters to send the Newsletter into oblivion, was more mildly used. It simply meant "fraudulent -- having a misleading appearance." When Kunth named Bastardia I think* he only wanted to say that this new genus looked like other genera in the family, such as Velvetleaf's Abutilon, but really it was something else, as proven by those single-seeded schizocarps.

The genus Bastardia embraces three or four species native to the American tropics, of which two occur in Mexico, and B. viscosa in the Yucatán. Bastardia viscosa is distributed from southern Texas through Mexico and Central America to Perú, and is likely to flower just about anytime throughout the year.

Though the Viscid Mallow's leaves aren't as velvety as Velvetleaf's, they're still pretty soft to the touch. Branched hairs on a leaf's underside are shown below:

Viscid Mallow, BASTARDIA VISCOSA, stellate hairs on leaf undersurface