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Common Mallow

A familiar sight on roadsides and waste spaces in South East Scotland, as well as around the Moray Firth, and some West coast sites. It is a robust perennial which has spread throughout Europe, appearing in hedgerows and fallow fields further south.

The flowers are pinkish purple, about 4cm in diameter, and with five purple-veined petals deeply notched at the tip. As with other mallows, there is a double set of sepals, the larger sepals enfolding the flower bud, with another smaller set behind. Sepals are hairy and broad.

After fertilisation the ovary develops into a lime-green wheel-shaped nut sitting in the centre of the sepals. This resembles a cheese-wheel and gives rise to the plant’s nickname ‘Cheese’ or ‘Cheesecake mallow.’

The leaves resemble ivy-leaves, being three lobed and crinkled with blunt serrations at the edges. They sometimes suffer from rust disease manifesting as a dark spot in the base of the leaf. The underside of the leaves have prominent ribs, and are slightly hairy as are the stems.

The boiled young leaves of the common mallow were used as a vegetable in the 19th century and have a rich vitamin content. Since ancient times the seeds have been eaten, and a soothing cup of mallow tea can aid in sleep disorders.

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