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A shrub up to 6 or 8 ft high, with stout, erect, woody, annual or biennial stems, I to 2 in. thick, and resembling a small tree in form. Leaves long-stalked, very variable in size, from 3 to 9 in. long, and as much broad, they are five- to seven-lobed, the lobes unequally round-toothed at the margins, the base heart-shaped; both surfaces are densely covered with soft hairs. Flowers borne very abundantly; covering as much as 11⁄2 to 2 ft of the terminal part of the branches, some on short leafy racemes, some clustered in leaf-axils. Each flower is 11⁄2 in. across, enclosed at first by a large, woolly, three-lobed involucre or epicalyx. Calyx five-cleft. Petals five, broadly wedge-shaped, pale purple-red, marked at the base with a patch of dark purple veins.
Native of S. Europe and the Atlantic coasts, this handsome plant is also found wild in Great Britain. It inhabits maritime situations on the south and west coasts from Hampshire to the Isle of Man, and occurs either naturalised or wild on Ailsa Craig, the Bass Rock, and other places on the coasts of Scotland. It is worth cultivating in the warmer parts of the kingdom, especially near the sea, its abundant seed making it easy to increase. It is chiefly known in inland gardens by ‘Variegata’, whose leaves are handsomely marked with white. This form must be propagated by cuttings.