Melhania oblongifolia



Melhania oblongifolia

F.Muell. 1858

pronounced: mel-HAH-nee-uh ob-long-ih-FOE-lee-uh

(Malvaceae — the hibiscus family)


common name: melhania

This genus is named after Mount Melhan in the Yemen, from where the type species was described; oblongifolia is from the Latin oblongus, longer than it is wide, and folium, a leaf.

There is some doubt as to whether this species is a native of Australia, or has been introduced and become naturalized. It is found right across the tropical and subtropical north of Australia, but some botanists maintain that it is conspecific with Melhania incana, a widespread Asian species.
The genus consists of about 60 species found in Africa, Madagascar and Australia, with only 2 of them found in this country. They are evergreen herbs or shrubs, with the leaves dentate, and petiolate. The stipules are shed early. They have bisexual flowers that are axillary, with no bracts, but bracteoles are sometimes present. There are 5 stamens, united in a short cup. The capsule is ovoid, with 4 – 8 seeds in each locule.

Melhania oblongifolia is a shrub growing to about 70 cm high, with a whitish velvety covering of hairs. The leaves are oblong to lanceolate, mostly 2 – 5 cm long, occasionally to 8 cm, 1 – 1.5 cm wide, dentate. The petioles are 5 – 10 mm long, the stipules about 4 mm.

The peduncles are 2 – 5 cm long, the epicalyx about 6 cm long, and the calyx lobes about 1 cm long. The petals are just over 1 cm long, and yellow, withering into a column. There are 5 stamens alternating with 5 staminodes. The flowers are solitary. The plant generally flowers from spring to summer.

The fruit is a capsule almost 1 cm long, densely hairy, surrounded by a persistent epicalyx and calyx. It is dehiscent.


Photograph taken in Picnic Bay 2010
Page last updated 3rd February 2019