The pink Pavonia is a perennial shrub that grows to about 1.5 m. The leaves are broad, somewhat round and slightly lobed, with prominent net-veining radiating out from the base. The leaves exude a slightly unpleasant odour when crushed. Much of the plant is covered in soft, velvety hairs that are not irritant to the touch, as is the case with another species of the genus, viz. Pavonia urens.
Flowers occur in axillary clusters. They have five pale pink petals that are rounded to obovate with pink lines radiating out from the base, analogous to the leaf veining. There is a yellow spot inside the flower base from which the sturdy white style emanates. The name columella, Latin for small column, may refer to the sturdy leaf stalks or maybe to this prominent columnar shape of the style.
Pavonia columella is used horticulturally, grows fast and attracts insects, particularly butterflies. The plant grows in water rich parts, particularly forest edges and riparian forests, mainly in warm semi-shade. The large distribution area stretches from the Eastern Cape to the eastern parts of tropical Africa in Kenya and Uganda.
This plant has undergone several name changes within its genus, e.g. Pavonia meyeri, P. galpiniana and P. mollis (www.zimbabweflora.co.zw and www.dargleconservancy.org.za).