Red-flowered Mallow (Modiola caroliniana), a modest but pervasive colonist of damp and fertile sites of disturbance throughout Australia. This plant was ubiquitous in the vicinity of the Merri Creek this weekend last, flowering both on the floodplain in every spot of roughed up ground free of taller brassicas and radishes, and on upland road verges close to the creek.
Although its pre-colonial range is contested, Red-flowered Mallow is understood to have originated in South America (thanks to scientific convention and Scottish botanist George Don, we are stuck with a presumably apocryphal latin name). The plant may have been introduced to Spain through that country’s colonial trade networks, and was recorded in Mexico and in parts of the United States (Florida, Texas, the eponymous Carolinas I guess) by or before the 1830s. It appears to have arrived in Australia c. 1860-1880, with early records from Queensland, Northern NSW and Victoria all appearing at around the same time.
Red-flowered Mallow’s introduction into the United States is apparently attributed to contamination of imported wool or cotton; in Australia it would seem more likely to have arrived as a hitchhiker on imports of live sheep from Spain, Mexico or Argentina. This is now a ubiquitous weed of Victoria’s floodplains and creeklines, and it can be found in nearly all parts of the metropolitan thanks to the city’s generous water supply system.