Common mallow Malva sylvestris
Table of Contents
Common mallow is a majestic wildflower, with striking pink flowers that can be seen brightening up roadside verges. It’s an important plant for pollinators and has a variety of culinary and medicinal uses.
Plant family: Malvaceae
Aliases: Cheese flower, cheese cakes, cheeses, hock
Flowering period: June – September
Flower colour: Deep pink
Preferred soil type: Most types, free draining
Habitat: Grassland, waste areas, roadside verges, dunes
Common mallow is a tall, perennial wildflower, with vibrant, pink flowers, it’s very common in roadside verges during the height of summer. It also grows on waste ground, dunes and most grassy places and is happy in both partial shade and full sun. It’s considered a weed to many gardeners, as it’s a hardy, invasive plant with a deep tap root.
Growing to almost 1.5 metres in height, mallow will grow in most types of soil, but prefers free draining, infertile, sandy soils. It’s from the same family (Malvaceae) as hollyhock and hibiscus and is similar in appearance. It’s often referred to as ‘cheese flower’ or ‘cheese cakes’ due to the shape of its fruits or nutlets, which look like cheese wedges and are edible.
Flowers: The flowers are borne in clusters, forming irregularly down the stem, with the basal flowers blooming first, they’re deep pink in colour with purple veins. Measuring between 30 – 40mm in diameter, each flower has 5 petals.
Leaves: The leaves are round – kidney shaped, palmately lobed, with between 3 – 7 lobes, up to 10 cm in diameter, sometimes resembling ivy and with blunt, serrated edges. Visually they are very similar to hollyhock.
Value for wildlife
Common mallow is visited by bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which visit to feed in its nectar.
Uses for common mallow
Common mallow has a long history of uses for both medicinal and culinary purposes, they are highly nutritious and rich in vitamins. The fruiting bodies are disc-shaped and resemble ‘cheese like’ wedge’s and are edible, with a nutty taste.
The leaves, once cooked, can be consumed like spinach or added to soup. The younger leaves are preferable to the older leaves, as they retain more texture and flavour. The flowers and buds can be pickled.
It has various medical uses and is used to treat urinary problems, arthritis, heartburn, coughs, blood poisoning, stomach ache and skin abrasions. The roots have been used to make potions and ointments.
Common mallow images
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