|Type species for Malva L.|
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, it acquired the common names of cheeses, high mallow and tall mallow (mauve des bois by the French) as it migrated from its native home in Western Europe, North Africa and Asia through the English-speaking world.
Malva sylvestris is a spreading herb, which is an annual in North Africa, biennial in the Mediterranean and a perennial elsewhere. It can be straight or decumbent, branched, and covered with fine soft hairs or none at all, 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".
The leaves are borne upon the stem, are roundish, with numerous lobes, each 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.57 in) long, 2–5 centimetres (0.79–1.97 in) and 5–10 centimetres (2.0–3.9 in) in diameter. The leaves have hairs radiating from a common center, with prominent veins on the underside.
Described as reddish-purple, bright pinkish-purple with dark stripes and bright mauve-purple, the flowers of Malva sylvestris appear in axillary clusters of 2 to 4 and form irregularly and elongated along the main stem with the flowers at the base opening first.
M. sylvestris has an epicalyx (or false calyx) with oblong segments, two-thirds as long as calyx or 2–3 millimeters long and 1.5 millimeters wide. Its calyx is free to the middle, 3–6 millimeters long, with broadly triangular lobes or ovate mostly 5–7 millimeters long. The flowers are 2–4 times as long as the calyx;
Malva sylvestris spreads itself on waste and rough ground, by roads and railways throughout lowland England, Wales and Channel Islands, Siberia and scattered elsewhere. It has been introduced to and has become naturalised in eastern Australia, in the United States, Canada, and Mexico as an invasive species.
In the wild
- 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
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." The flowers were spread on doorways and woven into garlands or chaplets for celebrating May Day.
The young leaves when boiled are a vegetable eaten in several parts of Europe in the 19th century.
In traditional medicine, M. sylvestris has been used in herbalism. Mucilage is present in many of the Malvaceae family including M. sylvestris, especially the fruit. The seeds are used internally in a decoction or herbal tea as a demulcent, and the leaves may be used in poultices as an emollient for external applications.
The species has long been used as a natural yellow dye, perhaps more recently, cream color, yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the plant and the seeds. A tincture of the flowers can make a very sensitive test for alkalis.
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)  and 'Zebrina Zebra Magis'.
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- 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'
- 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)
Malva vein clearing potyvirus which is transmitted by mechanical inoculation in a non-persistent manner via insects, such as 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.
Firebug on fruit of Malva sylvestris
- "Flora Europaea Search Results". Flora Europaea. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Retrieved 9 May 2008.
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- 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]
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- 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.
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- 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.
- 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.
- "Malva sylvestris L." Plants For A Future. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
- Heritage Perennials: Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina'
- "00.057.0.81.049. Malva vein clearing virus". ICTVdB Management. Columbia University. 2006. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
- 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.
- 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
- 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