Anisodontea julii

(Burch. ex DC.) Bates

: Malvaceae (hibiscus family)
Common names : mountain mallow, African mallow (Eng.); bergroos (Afr.)


Anisodontea julii, valued for its quick growth, is a tall, graceful shrub with velvety, maple-like leaves and wonderful displays of large pink flowers throughout the summer.

Description: A. julii has an airy growth habit forming a sparse shrub of about 2 x 1 m, with very hairy stems towards the base. The soft, coarsely toothed leaves have 3-7 lobes and are about 75 mm in length, on long stalks.

The deep pink to purple flowers occurring in twos and threes in the leaf axils, look like miniature hibiscus flowers. They are ± 40 mm in diameter and appear throughout summer, peaking in January and February.

Airy growth habit

Distribution: A. julii is found naturally on the slopes of the Drakensberg between 1 200 and 2 300 m. It occurs in evergreen scrub, often amongst boulders and rocks, where it is protected from fire and the worst frosts.

Derivation of name and historical aspects: Anisodontea is derived from the Greek words aniso, meaning unequal and odon, meaning toothed and refers to the irregularly toothed leaves.

Flower showing deeper pink lines to attract bee.There are 21 species of Anisodontea mainly found in the north, west and eastern Cape in the karoo and fynbos biomes, but also extending into the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho.

Ecology: Bees, butterflies and other insects pollinate the flowers. The narrow stripes of deeper pink on the open cup flowers, point pollinators in the right direction.

Uses and cultural aspects: This vigorous grower, growing to its full height in a single season and then thickening out in the following years, is cultivated around the world. In the garden, Anisodontea grows bigger and better than it does in the wild. A. julii makes an excellent fast-growing flowering screen or hedge. It also works well in an informal border or as a temporary filler between slower shrubs when mass planted. In mixed plantings, A. julii looks best planted towards the back and combines well with contrasting herbaceous perennials.

Shrub in flower

Growing Anisodontea julii  

Although A. julii comes from a summer rainfall region, it grows equally well in winter rainfall regions, flowering in its first season. Plant in full sun in any soil, but for better results add compost and irrigate occasionally. Prune back about a third in autumn to keep them neat and pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushiness. Plants spread at the roots by producing suckers in a most satisfactory way.

A. julii can be propagated from seed or cuttings in spring. Plants grown from seed may not, however, resemble the parent exactly, as Anisodontea hybridizes freely. Cuttings root easily and are useful if you want to maintain a particularly good form of plant.

References and further reading

  • Joffe, P. 2001. Creative gardening with indigenous plants. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • Johnson, D., Johnson, S. & Nichols, G. 2002. Gardening with indigenous shrubs. Struik, Cape Town.
  • Leistner, O.A. (ed.). 2000. Seed plants of southern Africa : families and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of Kwazulu-Natal and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.


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