Tree-mallow - Malva arborea, click for a larger image, photo licensed for reuse
Photos ©2005 Jeantosti
Click any photo for a larger image
Tree-mallow - Malva arborea, click for a larger image, photo licensed for reuse

Tree-mallow - Malva arborea
Family - Malvaceae
Spp. Lavatera arborea
Also known as - Rose mallow, Annual mallow

Hard to miss when in flower, Tree-mallow is a woody flowering bush native to the southern U.K and central Mediterranean area, it is a naturalised introduced alien to North America, Australia and eastern Asia, and one of around 25 species in the Malvaceae genus?.  It is a shrubby biennial plant growing to 0.5-3M (1.6-9.8ft) tall, it dies off in the second year after flowering and fruiting, having germinated and formed leaves in the first year.  It's flowers are a conspicuous pale pink or red through to purple with broad purple veins, 4-12cm (1.6-4.75in) in diameter with five petals and are produced in terminal clusters of two to seven flowers.  The flowers are in bloom from late May through to September and are frequented by bees looking for both nectar and pollen.  Palmately lobed leaves 8-18cm (3.2-7in) diameter, with five to seven lobes, are spirally arranged on the stem, each leaf has a coarsely serrated margin with a fine velvety surface.  Several Lepidoptera species larvae use various Mallow species as their food plants including Bucculatrix lavaterella, which feeds exclusively on these plants.

Tree Mallow tolerates salty water, excreting excess salt through glands on its leaves, so it can be found growing well in coastal areas as well as in a garden environment and woodland or scrubby areas as an escapee, as the yellow and wrinkled seeds are encased in an impermeable outer case, and can remain viable for years.  

FBCP do not advise or recommend that Tree-mallow - Lavatera arborea is eaten or used as an herbal remedy.   Flowers and seeds of several species in the Malvaceae genus are reputedly edible but relatively unpalatable due to their surface texture.  The leaves have been apparently used to treat sprains, by applying a poultice made from the leaves to the affected area.  It was considered a nutritive animal food in the 19th century, and is occasionally still used fodder in Europe.

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