Common Mallow (Malva neglecta var.)

Common Mallow (Malva neglecta)

Common Mallow (Malva neglecta); also called Cheeses, Button-weed, Cheese-plant, Cheese-weed, Dwarf Mallow and Round-leaf Mallow; is a forb/herb in the Mallow (Malvaceae) family and Malvales order. This plant can be an annual, perennial or biennial depending upon the variety. The variety shown on this page is most likely an annual. It is rare on Mount Desert Island. The sample shown on this page was discovered on the northeast shore of French Hill Pond. The Common Mallow (Malva neglecta) is categorized on this website as a field plant because it is normally found in a field environment not usually among emergent plants. This plant is a creeper, that is, the main stems grow along the ground for up to two feet (61 centimeters). Leaves and flowers grown on branches from these main stems. The photographs on this page show young plants that are the basic wild variety. Common Mallow (Malva neglecta) can have various flower colors and variations in leaf characteristics. The order, family and genus names come from the Latin, "malva," meaning "mallow." The species name is from the Latin for "neglected."

The flowers in the photograph above seem white but a closer look establishes that they are tinged with pink and violet as seen in the following photograph..

Common Mallow (Malva neglecta) Branch End

The following 20X microphotograph shows three of the five petals of a flower. All the petals overlap at the base. The petals of this variety are mostly white with some pink shadding and violet lines. The yellow patch shown in the microphotograph is likely pollen dispersed by an insect from the prominent stamens visible in the photograph at the top of this page. The petals are notched at the top. Each flower is from ½ to one inch (1.27 to 2.54 centimeters) wide when in full bloom. The three, green bracts at the base of each flower are half the length of the petals. This plant blooms from June through October.

Common Mallow Flower Detail

The leaves are attached to a stem by long petioles. The sample show on this page is not mature. The petioles are still growing and the leaves are still overlapping. As this plant grows, the leaves will spread apart and become round to kidney-shaped with a diameter or width of up to 2½ inches (six centimeters). Each leaf will have from five to nine shallow lobes. The leaf margins have sharp to rounded teeth. The higher the leaves on the plant, the fewer and more rounded teeth. The teeth and lobes appear less prominent as the plant ages and are also less prominent in some varieties.

Common Mallow Leaves Detail

The following photograph shows the creeping nature of this plant. The red arrows point at one creeping stem. The blue arrows point at other examples of this plant.

Common Mallow (Malva neglecta) Creepin Nature

The fruit is a schizocarp, that is, a dry fruit consisting of chambers called "carpels" containing one or more seeds. The Common Mallow have schizocarps with nine to 15 carpels. When the fruit splits, the carpels are called mericarps. Each mericarp has one seed and remains closed (indehiscent) when the mericarpels are disbursed until germination. The seed is less than 0.08 inches (two millimeters) in length. The carpels form a ring reminiscent of a cheese wheel, whence the common name, "Cheeses."

The root system is simple consisting of a main root, called a tap root, with branched secondary roots. The following 20X microphotograph shows part of the taproot and secondary roots.

Common Mallow Root Detail

Common Mallow is edible. Indigenous Americans used this plant for medicinal purposes and may be used as such by herbalists.


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