There are 54 species in the genus Melochia. These species thrive in the tropics and sub-tropics of the world. Bretonica peluda (a rather strange name), Melochia spicata, is one of five Melochia species that are native to Florida. The plant is a semi-woody shrub that reaches a height of about three feet. A single stem from the ground branches ascending stems that arch back to the ground. The stems are hairy and reddish in color. Hairy leaves are ovate in shape with toothed margins. The margins tilt upwards giving the leaf a boat-like appearance. The species is one that can be either an annual (one growing season) or a perennial (several growing seasons) depending on climatic and growing conditions.
The plant's flowers appear in a terminal spike at the end of the stems. The corolla rests on a calyx of five green sepals. The corolla is made up of five petals colored from pink to lavender and the corolla's star-like center is colored white. Five white stamens project from the corolla's center. The flower's fruit is a tiny capsule that appears after the flower falls off the stem.
I first photographed Bretonica peluda a few years ago in the Hickey Creek Preserve's pinelands where the species thrives. I found it again a few weeks ago while walking along a swale bordering a pineland that is directly behind Lowe's parking lot.
by Jim Rodwell