Malva sylvestris

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Malva sylvestris
Mallow January 2008-1.jpg
Type species for Malva L.
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Malva
Species: M. sylvestris
Binomial name
Malva sylvestris
Synonyms [1][2]
  • Malva ambigua Guss.
  • Malva mauritiana L.
  • Malva erecta C.Presl
  • Malva gymnoscarpa Pomel

Malva sylvestris is a species of the mallow genus Malva in the family of Malvaceae and is considered to be the type species for the genus. Known as common mallow to English-speaking Europeans,[3] it acquired the common names of cheeses, high mallow and tall mallow (mauve des bois by the French)[4] as it migrated from its native home in Western Europe, North Africa and Asia through the English-speaking world.[5] M. sylvestris is a vigorously healthy plant with showy flowers of bright mauve-purple, with dark veins; a handsome plant, often standing 3 or 4 feet (1 m) high and growing freely in meadows, hedgerows and in fallow fields.[6]

Common names[edit]

It is one of several species of different genera sometimes referred to as Creeping charlie, a term more commonly applied to Glechoma hederacea (ground ivy).[7]



Malva sylvestris is a spreading[3] herb,[8] which is an annual in North Africa,[9] biennial[5][10] in the Mediterranean[9] and a perennial elsewhere[9][8] Three feet (one meter) tall,[3][6] (3 meters has been observed in a wild or escaped from cultivation setting, and several cultivated plants of 2 meter or more in height[9]) with a growth habit which can be straight[10] or decumbent,[3][8] branched and covered with fine soft hairs or none at all,[10] M. sylvestris is pleasing in appearance when it first starts to flower, but as the summer advances, "the leaves lose their deep green color and the stems assume a ragged appearance".[6]

Flowers on Stem

Stems and leaves: A thick, round and strong stem.[6]

The leaves are borne upon the stem,[6] are roundish,[3][6][8] and have three[5] or five to seven[6][8] or five to nine[10] shallow[3] lobes, each 2 to 4 centimeters (1 to 2 inches) long, 2 to 5 centimeters wide (1 to 2 inches)[5] and 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches) in diameter.[8] Downy, with hairs radiating from a common center and prominent veins on the underside.[6]
Petiole either 2 to 6 centimeters (1 to 3 inches)[5] or 2 to 13 centimeters (1 to 5 or 6 inches) long.[10][8]
Described as reddish-purple,[10] bright pinkish-purple with dark stripes[3] and bright mauve-purple,[6] the flowers of Malva sylvestris appear in axillary clusters[8] of 2 to 4[5] and form irregularly and elongated along the main stem with the flowers at the base opening first.[8]
M. sylvestris has an epicalyx (or false calyx) with oblong segments, two-thirds as long as calyx[8] or 2–3 millimeters long and 1.5 millimeters wide.[5] Its calyx is free to the middle, 3–6 millimeters long,[5] with broadly triangular lobes[5] or ovate mostly 5–7 millimeters long.[8] The flowers are 2–4 times as long as the calyx;[10]
Petals are wrinkly to veined on the backs,[10] more than 20 millimeters long[3] or 15 to 25 millimeters long [8] and 1 centimeter wide,[5] eggshaped, margin notched with a fringe of hairlike projections.[5]
Slender flower stalks[10] that are either 2 centimeters long[5] or 1 to 3 centimeters long.[8]
Ten broad carpels in axillary clusters;[10] stamen about 3 millimters long, radiating from the center with short soft hairs.[5]
Ripe nutlets
Firebug on fruit of Malva sylvestris
Nutlets strongly reticulate (10–12 mericarps, usually without hair, with sharp angle between dorsal and lateral surfaces, 5–6 millimters in diameter.[3][5]
Seeds or 'cheeses,'[6] are brown to brownish green when ripe, about 2.5 millimeters long and wide[5][8] 5 to 7 millimeters in diameter[8] and are shaped like a cheese wheel which is where several of its common names came from.[citation needed]
Chromosome number


As a native Malva sylvestris spreads itself on waste and rough ground, by roads and railways throughout lowland England, Wales and Channel Islands, Siberia and scattered elsewhere.[3][10] It has been introduced to and has become naturalised in eastern Australia,[8] in the United States, Canada and Mexico probably escaped from cultivation.[10]

Macaronesia: Azores, Madeira Islands
Northern Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco
Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia
Western Asia: Afghanistan, Cyprus, Sinai, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey
Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ciscaucasia, Dagestan, Georgia
Soviet Middle Asia: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Mongolia: Mongolia
China: Xinjiang
Indian Subcontinent: Bhutan, India, Pakistan
Northern Europe: Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom
Middle Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland
East Europe: Belarus, Central Russia, Central Black Earth, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Northern Russia, North Caucasus, Northwestern Russia, Volga, Urals, Volga-Vyatka, Ukraine
Southeastern Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Sardinia, Serbia, Sicily, Slovenia, Romania
Southwestern Europe: Balearic Islands, Corsica, France, Portugal, Spain

Source: USDA ARS GRIN[4]


Mauve, n. F., mallow, L. malva. So named from the similarity of the color to that of the petals of common mallow, {Malva sylvestris}.

Webster's Dictionary

M. sylvestris in a 19th-century illustration

In 1931 Maud Grieve wrote that the "use of this species of Mallow has been much superseded by Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis), which possesses its valuable properties in a superior degree, but it is still a favourite remedy with country people where Marsh Mallow is not obtainable."[6]

In the past, the flowers were spread on doorways and woven into garlands or chaplets for celebrating May Day.[6]
The young leaves when boiled are a vegetable[6] eaten in several parts of Europe in the 19th century.[11]
Traditional medicine
M. sylvestris has been used in traditional medicine since ancient times, and is still used in herbalism. Mucilage is present in many of the Malvaceae family including M. sylvestris,[12][13] especially the fruit.[14] The seeds are used internally in a decoction or herbal tea as a demulcent,[11] and the leaves may be used in poultices as an emollient for external applications.[14]
The species has long been used as a natural yellow dye,[15] perhaps more recently, cream color, yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the plant and the seeds.[16] A tincture of the flowers can make a very sensitive test for alkalis.[6]


Plants previously often described as Malva sylvestris var. malaca are now considered a Cultivar Group Malva sylvestris Mauritiana Group.[9]


The cultivar 'Zebrina', selected for its striped petals

It is often grown as an ornamental plant for its attractive flowers, produced for a long period through the summer. Numerous cultivars have been selected and named.

Cultivars of Malva sylvestris include: 'Alba', 'Annita', 'Aurora', 'Bardsey Blue', 'Blue Fountain', 'Brave Heart', 'Cottenham Blue', 'Gibbortello', 'Harry Hay', 'Highnam', 'Inky Stripe', 'Knockout', 'Magic Hollyhock', 'Mest', 'Mystic Merlin', 'Perry's Blue', 'Purple Satin', 'Richard Perry', 'Tournai', 'Windsor Castle', 'Zebrina' (soft lavender-purple striped with deep maroon veins) [17] and 'Zebrina Zebra Magis'.

Cultivar Groups
Malva sylvestris L. Mauritiana group
Swedish: mauretansk rödmalva, Estonian: mauri kassinaeris, Slovene: Mavretanski slezenovec, Croatian: mórmályva Malva mauritiana used to be recognized as a species whose range is Iberia, Italy and Algeria. Garden plants are often called Malva sylvestris var. mauritiana and they make a cultivar group that includes:
  • 'Bibor Felho'
  • 'Moravia'
The cultivar 'Maria's Blue Eyes'
Malva sylvestris L. Eriocarpa group
Hairy seeds and hairy stems found between Italy and the Himalayas, Central Asia and China.
Malva sylvestris L. Canescens group
Every part except for the flower is covered with dense white woolly hair, growing in the Montpellier region of France, and on the Balearic Isles. Some 19th-century botanical works called this group Malva sylvestris L. var. canescens.
Malva sylvestris L. Sterile Blue group
Vegetatively propagated pale violet-blue flowered cultivars:
  • MARINA 'Dema'
  • 'Primley Blue'
  • 'Maria's Blue Eyes' (dark violet-blue flowered)

Source: Stewart Robert Hinsley[9]

Malva vein clearing potyvirus which is transmitted by mechanical inoculation in a non-persistent manner via insects: Aphis umbrella (syn. Aphis malvae Koch) and Myzus persicae (all are Aphididae). The virus can be found in Tasmania, Brazil, the former Czechoslovakia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Portugal, California, Russia and the former Yugoslavia.[18][19]


M. sylvestriscontains malvin and malonylmalvin.[20] It also contains the naphtoquinone malvone A, which is also a phytoalaxin.[21]


  1. ^ "Flora Europaea Search Results". Flora Europaea. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  2. ^ "Malva sylvestris L. record n° 81830". African Plants Database. South African National Biodiversity Institute, the Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève and Tela Botanica. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k C. Stace, R. van der Meijden (ed.) & I. de Kort (ed.). "Malva sylvestris (Mallow, Common)". Interactive Flora of NW Europe. Netherlands Biodiversity Information Facility. Retrieved 9 May 2008.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) (20 May 1992). "Taxon: Malva sylvestris L." Taxonomy for Plants. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program, National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved 9 May 2008.[dead link]
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Flora of Pakistan. "Malva sylvestris Linn". Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n M. Grieve (1931). "MALLOW, BLUE". A Modern Herbal. © Copyright Protected 1995–2008 Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  7. ^ Sinclair, Pam (7 October 1999). "creeping charlie". Plantbio mailing list (Mailing list). Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p National Herbarium of New South Wales. "Search PlantNET". New South Wales FloraOnline. Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Stewart Robert Hinsley. "Malva sylvestris (section Malva, in part)". The Malva Pages. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Britton, Nathaniel; Addison Brown (1913). "CYRILLACEAE". An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British possessions. Volume II, Amaranthaceae to Loganiaceae. Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 2052 pages. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  11. ^ a b Hiley, John S. (1841). "On the medical botany of the province of Halifax". In Thomas Wakley. The Lancet, In Two Volumes (Volume The Second ed.). J. Onwhyn. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  12. ^ Balfour, John Hutton (1863). "Products and Secretions of Plants". A manual of botany: being an introduction to the study of the structure, physiology, and classification of plants. Edinburgh: A & C Black. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  13. ^ Balfour, John Hutton (1863). "Malvaceae". A manual of botany: being an introduction to the study of the structure, physiology, and classification of plants. Edinburgh: A & C Black. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  14. ^ a b Dey, William Mair, Kanny Lall; Mair, William (1896). "Indigenous Drugs of India". The indigenous drugs of India: short descriptive notices of the principal medicinal products met with in British India. Thacker, Spink & Co. pp. 387 pages. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  15. ^ Bailey, Liberty Hyde (1910). "Dyes and Dyeing. C.S. Doggert". Cyclopedia of American agriculture: a popular survey of agricultural conditions, practices and ideals in the United States and Canada, In Four Volumes. Volume II --Crops. Macmillan Publishers. pp. 2016 pages. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  16. ^ "Malva sylvestris L." Plants For A Future. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  17. ^ Heritage Perennials: Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina'
  18. ^ " Malva vein clearing virus". ICTVdB Management. Columbia University. 2006. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  19. ^ Brunt, A.A., Crabtree, K., Dallwitz, M.J., Gibbs, A.J., Watson, L. and Zurcher, E.J. (eds.) (August 1996). "Descriptions and Lists from the VIDE Database: Malva vein clearing potyvirus". Plant Viruses Online. University of Idaho. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  20. ^ Malonated anthocyanins in malvaceae: Malonylmalvin from Malva sylvestris. Kosaku Takeda, Shigeki Enoki, Jeffrey B. Harborne and John Eagles, Phytochemistry, 1989, Volume 28, Issue 2, Pages 499–500, doi:10.1016/0031-9422(89)80040-8
  21. ^ Malvone A, a phytoalexin found in Malva sylvestris (family Malvaceae).Olga Veshkurova, Zamira Golubenko, Egor Pshenichnov, Irina Arzanova, Vyacheslav Uzbekov, Elvira Sultanova, Shavkat Salikhov, Howard J. Williams, Joseph H. Reibenspies, Lorraine S. Puckhaber and Robert D. Stipanovic, Phytochemistry, November 2006, Volume 67, Issue 21, Pages 2376–2379, doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2006.08.010

External links[edit]

1913 Illustration
United States