ORRIN MORRIS: Look for marsh-mallow in a marshy habitat

Psalm 46:10a reads, "Be still, and know that I am God." Be still. That is easy to say, but does God realize the noises that surround me every day?

About 1,000 yards away is a traffic light and with the air-conditioning and radio running, I can still hear the radios booming in waiting cars and the rumble of passing aircraft.

Add to that the thousands of trucks shifting gears to climb the surrounding hills, sirens from emergency vehicles, and so on.

In spite of all that, I still have an ideal place for an artist to live.

I have learned that to be still is more an attitude than physical silence. When we become still we learn to understand our humanity compared to the wonder of God's love. His love is infinite and my love is so humanly flawed.SMOOTH MARSH-MALLOW

Hibiscus militarisThe smooth marsh-mallow has a happy face. It reminds us of God's love and the joy we find when we learn to "be still." When we walk about examining the unique beauty of wildflowers there may be all sorts of noises coming from every direction. Yet, as we focus on a new plant, the cacophony about us pales to a silence.

"Be still, and know that I am God."

This beautiful pink wildflower with a purplish-red center may open to 6 inches in diameter if the location and season are right.

The name marsh-mallow gives us the clue to the primary habitat, a marsh. I first discovered this wildflower along my 1,000 foot driveway in 1999, when rains were normal and fed the marsh-like habitat. However, when the spring that fed this area dried up, many different species that graced that area disappeared.

The overlapping petals of the blooms of the smooth marsh-mallow are heavily ridged. As with most hibiscus relatives, the stamens are tightly clustered against the ovary and the pistil extends beyond the stamens as illustrated.

Note, also, the strange shape of the leaves. That shape is called halberd, after the long poles of 16th century Swedish warriors. The poles contained a three-pronged hatchet, similar to the shape of the marsh-mallow's leaves.

There is no herbal lore associated with this plant; however, some of its many relatives perked my interest. The mallow family includes the beautiful rose of Sharon and hollyhocks, the nourishing okra, and the very important gossypium genus for cotton fibers, according to "Wildflowers of the Eastern United States," by Wilbur H. and Marion B. Duncan.

Rather than turning up the volume and suffering the consequences of denial, may you find a renewed sense of joy and peace by practicing the admonition to "be still." The Advent Season that leads us to the Bethlehem scene beacons us to contemplate the depth of God's love for us individually and within our community.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers.