Mallows

Common Hollyhock Common Mallow Common Mallow Bladder Ketmia

What are they?

The mallows form the major part of the family Malvaceae. This is a very variable group of plants that includes both woody shrubs, herbaceous perennials and annuals, producing plants that may be creeping ground huggers, to species up to three metres or so in height. Despite all this variation, the species on this page can generally be readily told by the overall appearance of their flowers. The seeds are contained in a rounded cluster of nutlets, like slices of pie or cheese.

Where are they found?

Mallows occur in a wide range of habitats, so habitat can be useful to note, especially if the plant is in coastal or salt-influenced habitats. However, the group also contains a number of introduced species which are typically found in disturbed areas, urban sites and other human-influenced habitats.

Identification

Flowers in this group are typically five-petalled, the petals being broad (and often notched) at the tip, but narrowing at the base, sometimes to leave basal gaps between the petals. For some of the group, it is worth noting details of the green base of the flower. In mallows, the five, green sepals are fused together to form what is called a calyx. In addition, the flowers have a second, outer row of usually smaller, green, sepal-like lobes; these collectively are known as the epicalyx and the shape or size of the lobes can be useful for identification.



Marsh Mallow      Althaea officinalis

Native. A plant of grassy, coastal areas in salt-influenced soil. Local along the Suffolk river estuaries but more common in the lower marshes of the Broadland rivers. Flowers August to September. Flowers pale pink. Leaves covered in a remarkably dense layer of soft hairs, like plush velvet.

Marsh Mallow Marsh Mallow Marsh Mallow Marsh Mallow
Habit
Flower
Leaf
Leaf close-up


Common Musk Mallow      Malva moschata

Native in grassy places, usually on chalky soils, but also widely planted/sown as part of wildflower mixes. Flowers July to August. Basal leaves more less entire and lobed, but upper leaves progressively more deeply cut into narrow segments. Epicalyx lobes narrow, about half the length of the calyx lobes. Flowers pink with broad petals, but white-flowered plants are frequent in planted/sown populations.

Common Musk Mallow Common Musk Mallow Common Musk Mallow Common Musk Mallow
Flowers
Flowers
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Leaf


Common Mallow      Malva sylvestris

Native and very common throughout the region in grassy places and disturbed ground. Flowers June to October. Very variable, low and sprawling or upright and well-branched to a metre in height. Basal leaves more less entire and palmately lobed, with upper leaves more narrowly lobed. Epicalyx lobes narrow, about 3/4 the length of the calyx lobes. Flowers deep or pale pink with narrow petals and often darker veins. Nutlets with fine ridges on the surface.

Common Mallow Common Mallow Common Mallow Common Mallow
Flowers
Flower
Calyx
Leaf
Common Mallow
Nutlets


Chinese Mallow      Malva verticillata

Introduced. A relatively recent arrival and currently rare, but may well increase as a weed of arable crops. Flowers July to September or later. Basal leaves more less entire and palmately lobed, with upper leaves more narrowly lobed. Epicalyx lobes narrow and rather sharply pointed. Flowers rather small, typically around one centimetre across. Nutlets ridged on the surface.

Chinese Mallow Chinese Mallow Chinese Mallow Chinese Mallow
Habit
Chinese Mallow
Nutlets


Dwarf Mallow      Malva neglecta

An ancient introduction and now common and well-established in disturbed ground, rough places and as a weed of gardens and pathways. Flowers June to September or later. Typically a prostrate species, but sometimes reaches upward when at the base of walls or fences. Leaves more less entire and palmately lobed. Epicalyx lobes narrow and rather sharply pointed. Flowers pale pink. Nutlets smooth, not ridged on the surface.

Dwarf Mallow Dwarf Mallow Dwarf Mallow Dwarf Mallow
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Flower
Calyx
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Least Mallow      Malva parviflora

A rather rare casual introduction with less than 10 records in the region. Flowers June to September or later. A rather variable species but typically with quite deeply lobed leaves and noticeably small flowers that a very pale pink or almost white in colour. Epicalyx lobes narrow and rather sharply pointed. Nutlets smooth, but with sharply ridged - almost winged - edges.

Least Mallow Least Mallow Least Mallow
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Royal Mallow      Malva trimestris

Introduced and occasionally found as an annual from planted/sown wildflower mixes. Flowers July to September. An upright species to a metre in height (though often much less) with leaves more less entire and only shallowly lobed. Epicalyx lobes triangular and spreading. Flowers relatively large (5-9cm across) pink or white with broad petals.

Royal Mallow Royal Mallow Royal Mallow Royal Mallow
Flower
Flower
Calyx
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Tree Mallow      Malva arborea

A slightly tender species that is considered native in SW Britain, but an introduction in East Anglia, where it persists quite well in milder, coastal localities. Flowers July to September. Plants biennial, in the first year producing a lush, bushy growth of softly downy leaves. In the second year, flowering shoots push upward, sometimes reaching around three metres in height and becoming quite woody towards the base. Epicalyx lobes very broad and longer than the calyx lobes, enlarging in fruit. Flowers pink with fairly broad petals and dark centres.

Tree Mallow Tree Mallow Tree Mallow Tree Mallow
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Nutlets


Garden Tree Mallow      Malva x clementii

A garden hybrid of cultivated origin that sometimes persists for a while after being discarded on rough ground or roadsides. Flowers July to October. A woody, half-hardy shrub to 2.5 metres in height. Basal leaves three- to five-lobed, but upper leaves often more or less unlobed; furry with star-shaped hairs. Flowers various shades of pink.

Garden Tree Mallow Garden Tree Mallow Garden Tree Mallow Garden Tree Mallow
Habit
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Upper leaf
Lower leaf


Common Hollyhock      Alcea rosea

Introduced and a very popular garden plant that can become established where it self-sows in villages and towns. A notable feature of many coastal villages. Flowers July to August. A narrow, upright species, to three metres in height and grown in a remarkable range of colour forms. Large basal leaves can look rhubarb-like but are rough-textured. Stem leaves rounded or deeply fingered. Flowers any shade of pink, red or purple right through to deep maroon. Also white or yellow flowers occur, as well as 'pompon' forms.

Common Hollyhock Common Hollyhock Common Hollyhock Common Hollyhock
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Lower leaf
Upper leaf
Common Hollyhock Common Hollyhock Common Hollyhock Common Hollyhock
Flowers
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Flowers


Bladder Ketmia      Hibiscus trionum

Introduced. A rather rare annual species that has been grown for ornament in the past but now more likely to be a rare casual from spilt bird seed. Flowers July to August. Leaves deeply fingered with lobed edges to the leaflets. The seed pods inflate after flowering to form bladder-like globes.

Bladder Ketmia Bladder Ketmia Bladder Ketmia Bladder Ketmia
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Seed capsule