Malva neglecta Wallr.
General: spreading annual, rarely biennial, mostly 20-60
cm tall, with short, somewhat stiff hairs.
Leaves: alternate, the stalks several times the length of
the blades, the blades heart- to kidney-shaped, about 1.5-4
cm long, blunt- to sharp-toothed, very inconspicuously 5 to
sometimes 7-lobed. The 2 stipules at bases lanceolate,
0.5-1 cm long.
Flowers: pale pink to nearly white, in clusters of 1 to 3
from leaf axils, on stalks about 1 cm long. Calyx about 6-8
mm long, the 5 lobes triangular, pointed, about half as
long. The 3 bracteoles at the base narrowly lance-shaped.
The 5 petals obovate, about 10 mm long, notched at the
tips. Stamens numerous, joined to a tube at the base,
freed higher up singly or in pairs. Style branches 10-15,
with stigmas most of their length, not terminally enlarged.
Flowering time: May-September.
Fruits: capsules, round, flattened lengthwise, cheese-
shaped, composed of several wedge-shaped segments,
these rounded on the back, short-hairy but otherwise
nearly or quite smooth.
Fields, gardens and disturbed areas, in w. and s.c. parts
of MT. Introduced from Europe, a fairly common weed
throughout the U.S.
Edible and Medicinal plant, see below.
(click on image for full size)
(click on images for full size)
Leaves and young shoots of common mallow are edible raw or cooked. They have a mild pleasant flavor, and
are said to be highly nutritious. They can be added in quantity to salads, and make an excellent lettuce
substitute. They can also be cooked as greens. The leaves are mucus-forming, so when cooked in soups etc.
they tend to thicken it in much the same way as okra. A decoction of the roots has been used as an egg-white
substitute for making meringue. The roots are brought to the boil in water and then simmered until the
water becomes quite thick. This liquid can then be whisked in much the same way as egg whites. A tea can
be made from the dried leaves. Immature seeds are edible raw or cooked. Having a pleasant nutty flavor,
they are nice as a nibble but too small in most cases to collect in quantity.
When grown on nitrogen rich soils (and particularly when these are inorganic), the plant tends to concentrate high levels of nitrates in its leaves. The leaves are perfectly wholesome at all other times.
All parts of common mallow are astringent, laxative, urine-inducing, and have agents that counteract inflammation,
that soften and soothe the skin when applied locally, and that induce the removal (coughing up) of mucous
secretions from the lungs. The Cherokee Indians put the flowers in oil and mixed them with tallow for
use on sores. The Iroquois Indians made a compound infusion of plants applied as poultice to swellings
of all kinds, and for broken bones. They also applied it to babies' swollen stomach or sore back. The
Mahuna Indians used the plant for painful congestions of the stomach. The Navajo, Ramah Indians made a
cold infusion of plants taken and used as a lotion for injuries or swellings. The plant is also an excellent
laxative for young children.
Cream, yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the plant and the seed heads. The root has been used as a toothbrush.
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