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Malva sylvestris (common mallow)

Malva sylvestris is a biennial or perennial native to Europe, Asia and North Africa but now spread throughout the world. As the name implies, it is one of the tallest mallows, growing to approximately 80-120 cm. The species has been cultivated as an ornamental because of its attractive pink-purple flowers with dark stripes, flowering for quite a long period during summertime. The flowers are a good source of nectar for pollinating insects. If sown in early spring, plants will most likely start flowering the first year, while sowing in late spring can result in flowering the second year.
The plant is edible and has a pleasant mild flavor. Both leaves, shoots, flowers and seeds can be eaten, either raw or cooked. When leaves and roots are boiled in water, they will thicken the water, and when stirred, the water can be used as an egg-white substitute. Plant parts and seeds from Malva sylvestris have been used for obtaining green-, yellow- and cream dye. The medical uses for Malva sylvestris are similar to other mallow species including the more widely used species marsh mallow. Historically the plant was used to treat bruises, insect bites, internal diseases of the respiratory system and inflammation of the urinary- and digestive systems. Leaves and flowers can be eaten as they are or as tea. It is said to be a good remedy for coughs and tonsillitis, is a mild laxative and ease heartburn.


Sow the seeds in early April in a broadcast tray. Scarification of the seed can be advantageous for germination. Some mature seeds may be harvested the first year, but also the following year depending on geographical position and weather. Use tray substrate and place in light conditions, approximately 20-23 °C. Cover seeds to a depth of 0.5-1 cm. When large enough to handle transplant the plants into small individual pots in pot substrate.

Family: Malvaceae

Swedish: rödmalva

Finnish: kiiltomalva

Norwegian: apotekarkattost

Danish: almindelig katost

Icelandic: skógarstokkrós

Malva sylvestris flower in June to September and seeds are normally harvested in July to September, either the first or second year.
The pots can be placed in an unheated greenhouse, or outside when the risk of frost is over. When fully rooted in the pots, plant outside in field in semi-shade or sunny settings. All Malva-species described in this manual are prone to rust, weakening the plants and in difficult cases damaging the seeds. Make sure to use a suitable crop rotation to prevent rust. Malva sylvestris flower in June to September and seeds are normally harvested in July to September, either the first or second year. Harvest should always be conducted in dry conditions. Due to the extended flowering period, seeds of Malva sylvestris may mature gradually and unevenly. Harvest when seeds are brownish and dry. The seeds forms a round “cheese” and when mature seeds can easily be separated from each other.