The Seashore Mallow, an unassuming plant with a hibiscus-like pink flower might be an unlikely climate change saviour. However, the plant, native to North America may be the future of biofuels.
The flower has two advantages over other potential biofuel crops. It is, first of all, a perennial and so unlike soy will not require replanting every year. Secondly and crucially, it is a halophyte, highly resistant to salt. It is therefore possible to cultivate the Seashore Mallow in saltwater marshland and other areas in which most crops cannot be grown.
Whether or not farmland used for food production should be converted for biofuel use is contentious, with some claiming it is driving up food prices. The Seashore Mallow does not involve the conversion of food production; rather it enlarges the area of land suitable for cultivation.
The plant has further uses. The meal leftover from oil extraction can be used as animal feed, whilst the roots are a source of industrial gum. It is according to John Gallagher of the University of Delaware, “the pig of the vegetable world, you can use everything but the squeal.”