At first Common Mallow plants were few in number. The flowers are pretty. It was in out of the way places. That has changed. Ten years later this plant is taking over the chicken yard, expanding into the goat barn lot and covering a wide swath of ground in front of these places. It tried to take over my garden but diligent weeding has reduced it to occasional.
The flowers are still pretty. I still enjoy seeing them. The seed pods are interesting. The plants are ruthlessly mowed.
Malva neglecta Wallr.
April to October I Family: Malvaceae
Flower: Hairy flower stalks grow from the leaf nodes and end in one to three flowers. Each flower has five hairy, pointed sepals. There are five white to light pink to lavender petals with dark pink veins. The flowers have an open bell shape.
Leaf: The alternate, green leaves have long, hairy petioles. Each leaf has several veins radiating out from the petiole into the five to seven shallow lobes of the leaf. The leaf appears almost circular but has two definite sides that overlap. The edges are toothed. The teeth and lobes give the leaf a scalloped look. The edges can have jagged waves.
Stem: Several stems come from the root. The green stems branch. They are hairy.
Root: The taproot is fleshy, can fork or have fleshy side roots. It can be annual or perennial.
Fruit: The seeds are arranged in a single circle inside a flattened round seed pod that resembles a wheel of cheese.
Habitat: This plant grows almost anywhere. It seems to prefer disturbed sunny areas.
Edibility: The leaves, young stems and flowers are edible raw or cooked. The seeds are edible but their small size makes gathering them tedious.
Common Mallow came from Europe. It spreads rapidly from seed. The plant grows, flowers and sets seed quickly. The seeds can sprout at any time of the year.
The Malvaceae family is the mallow family giving this plant its common name. The name referring to cheese is from the shape of the seed pod. It looks like a wheel of cheese. Cheese weed is from its growth habits.
The leaves and flowers resemble those of the garden variety of geranium. The plant can be a foot tall but sprawls across the ground. Its stems can be two feet long.
Common Mallow is considered edible. The leaves produce a mucilage so adding a few to soup can thicken the soup. As with the mucilage from okra, not everyone likes the texture. The young leaves, sprouts and flowers can be added to salad or cooked as greens.
An emerging sprout puts down a taproot. This can grow to a foot long. It is thick and difficult to pull out. The root can be eaten.
This plant is often considered a weed. It spreads so rapidly and spreads out to cover an area, the ground is covered with it. Once established, it is difficult to eradicate. Mowing makes it into a low ground cover still blooming and setting seed.
The plant is an alternate host for hollyhock rust.