common mallow (Malva neglecta)
Malva rotundifolia auct. non L.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for common
mallow is Malva neglecta Wallr.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Common mallow is an adventive winter or summer annual or bi-
ennial species that forms a branching vine up to 3' in length. Common
mallow has stems that originate from a deep tap root. Although the plant
growth habit is spreading, the plants can reach two feet tall. The stems
have abundant white hairs.
Leaves: The alternate leaves occur on long petioles along the stems. The
leaves are up to 2½" long and 3" across, while the petioles are about twice
as long as the leaves. The palmate leaves are orbicular to kidney-shaped (reniform), with 5 - 9 shallow lobes, sometimes crinkled in appearance,
2-6 cm wide, and a crenate margin. Leaves with the veins originating at
the petiole and radiating outward, ¾ to 3½ inches in diameter. Leaves are
deeply indented at the base and often have short hairs across the upper or
lower surface as well as on the margins and petioles. Leaves tough and
leathery, sometimes rough to touch.
Flowers: Occasionally, a short flowering stalk (peduncle) about 1" long
will occur above the leaf axils, each stalk producing 1-3 flowers. The
flowers are borne either singly or in clusters (generally 2-4, occassionally
more) in the leaf axils on stalks about 1 cm long. Each flower is about ¾"
across and has 5 slightly notched petals; the notches at the tip may make
it appear that there are 10 petals. The 5 petals are obovate in shape and
about 10 mm long. The petals are about two times longer than the sepals
(the leaf- like structures at the base of the flower). The petals have some
variation in color, ranging from pale pink to nearly white or pinkish laven-
der, but may be light purple or light violet, often with pale violet lines
along their length. The green calyx (6-8 mm long) has 5 triangular, point-
ed lobes with ovate tips that are about one-half the length of the petals. In
the center of the flower, there is a central reproductive column with single
pistil and numerous stamens appressed together. Stamens numerous, join-
ed 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.
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by a fruit that is flattened lengthwise,
round, disc-like, composed of 12-15 small hairy, 1-seeded segments, 5 to
8 mm in diameter. The small, green seeds are aligned in a circular row,
resembling a wheel of cheese, pumpkin, or button (hence its common
name of buttonweed or cheeseweed). The outer edge of these seeds is of-
ten hairy, otherwise nearly or quite smooth.
Roots: The root system consists of a short, straight taproot.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Mallow only reproduces by seed. With
a tough seed coat common mallow has a low germination each year, but a
long viability of the seeds. however, if the seed coat is nicked or otherwise
altered to allow water in, seeds can germinate the same season they mature.
Common mallow can also vegetatively spread by stems rooting at the nodes.
HABITAT TYPES: Common mallow is primarily a plant of disturbed
areas; where humans have altered the natural environment, common
mallow can establish itself. The invasive potential of this species to
natural habitats is low. Habitats include cropland, grassland, abandoned
fields, farm lots, vacant lots, areas along roads and railroads, edges of
yards and gardens, turfgrass, landscapes, nursery crops, fencelines and
near foundations, and any areas cleared for riparian structures (e.g., along
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Common mallow prefers full sun that are
usually mesic to slightly dry. Growth is more luxuriant in fertile loamy
soil, but common mallow is adaptable to different soil types.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: In the absence of a major disturbance,
the blooming period usually occurs during the summer and lasts about
2-3 months. However, some plants will bloom during late spring or early
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Common mallow has been reported in all
states in the United States (except Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana) and
all Canadian provinces (except Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and
the Labrador portion of Newfoundland).
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract
primarily bees, including honeybees, bumblebees, Little Carpenter bees,
Cuckoo bees (Nomadine), Mason bees, Green Metallic bees, and other
Halictid bees. Other visitors of the flowers include miscellaneous flies and
White butterflies, especially Pieris rapae (cabbage white). The caterpillars
of some Lepidoptera feed on mallows, including Anomis erosa (yellow
scallop moth), Pyrgus communis (common checkered skipper), and the
butterflies Strymon melinus (gray hairstreak) and Vanessa cardui
There is insufficient evidence that either birds or mammals consume
common mallow to any significant degree, although it may be eaten by
The plant can be eaten by people as well, particularly the leaves. However,
when grown on nitrogen rich soils (some lawns, gardens, or agriculture
lands), the plant tends to concentrate high levels of nitrates in its leaves.
All parts of the plant 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.
In commercial agricultural crops mallow can host or be a refuge site for
plant pests, including whiteflies and thrips. Additionally, mallows can
serve as a reservoir for a number of plant viruses including alfalfa mosaic
virus, cotton leaf crumple virus, tomato yellow leaf curl, and tomato spotted
wilt tospovirus. Whiteflies and thrips can transport these viruses from the
surrounding weeds to the crop.
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