The Althaea Pages:
Annual Marshmallows

Althaea australis W.R. Barker
Althaea hirsuta L.
Althaea longiflora Boiss. & Reut.
Althaea ludwigii L.

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The annual marshmallows (sect. Hirsutae) are a group of 2 or 3 species (not all authors recognise Althaea longiflora as distinct at the rank of species from Althaea hirsuta) with a broadly Mediterranean and south west Asian distribution. They may be more closely related to the Mediterranean annual mallows Malva cretica, Malva aegyptiaca and Malva trifida than to the perennial marshmallows - see my discussion on the Malva alliance.

They may be distinguished from the perennial marshmallows by their annual habit, by the presence of simple hairs (the perennial marshmallows have only stellate hairs), and by the yellow (not red/purple) coloration of the anthers. They can be distinguished from the annual mallows mentioned above by their possession of an epicalyx of 8 to 10 bracteoles which are fused at the base. (The annual mallows possess an epicalyx of 2 or 3, unfused, bracteoles.)

They generally have small flowers, and have not found favour as garden plants.

Althaea hirsuta L.
 hairy marshmallow, Hispid Mallow, Rough Marshmallow
 guimauve hérissée
 Cañamera azul, Malvavisco peludo
 Malví hirsut
 altea irsuta, Altea ispida
 Rauher Eibisch
 ruige heemst
 Kosmata popla
 proskurník chlupatý
 rutavi bijeli sljez
 Hocysen Flewog

Althaea hirsuta is found in the Mediterranean region and south west Asia. In Europe is is found in western France, the southern coastal regions of France and the Rhone Valley, central Spain, Valencia, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta and the Italian peninsula, the Adriatic coast and Danube valley of Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece (not the Aegean or Ionian islands), European Turkey, and the Black Sea coasts of Bulgaria, Romania, and the Ukraine. In Britain is is doubtfully native to a few locations in north Somerset and west Kent and occurs casually at scattered locations in England and Wales. In North Africa it is found in northern regions of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. In Asia it is found in north and west Anatolia, the Levant, Iraqi Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, west, north and central Persia and localities in Turkestan.

Althaea hirsuta is a hairy-stemmed annual growing to 15-40 cm in height. It may be single or few-stemmed. The stems may be branched, or branched at the base. The leaves are long-petioled at the base of the stems, and almost sessile at the top. The stipules are 5-8 mm long, ovate-oblong to lanceolate, acuminate at the apex, and hairy. The blades are 1×1.5 to 4×3.5(-4) cm in size. In the basal leaves they are slightly 5-7-lobed, with dentate-crenate margins; in the upper leaves they are deeply palmately 3-5-lobed, with oblong, cuneate, lobes with crenate to incised or lobulate margins.

The flowers are borne, solitarily in the leaf axils, in spring, on slender pedicels which are much longer than the subtending leaves. They have an epicalyx of 8 lanceolate brateoles, which are connate in their lower third, and shorter in length than calyx. The calyx is 5-lobed and 1.5 cm long. Both calyx and epicalyx are covered with stiff tuberculate bristles, and are accrescent. The petals are 1-1½ times as long as the sepals. They are pink, white or purple, broadly cuneate, and notched at the apex. The fruit is a schizocarp composed of 10-15 mericarps. The mericarps have rounded margins. They are glabrous, and tranversely wrinkled.

The chromosome count is 42.

Synonyms of Althaea hirsuta include Althaea hispida Moench., Althaea micrantha Wiesb., Althaea mutica J.Gay, Axolopha hirsuta Alef., Dinacrusa hirsuta (L.) G.Krebs, Malva hirsuta (L.) F.W.Schultz and Malva setigera Spenner..

Althaea longiflora Boiss. &Reut.

Althaea longiflora is found in southern Spain, Morocco, western Algeria and northern Tunisia. It differs from Althaea hirsuta in having larger petals (about twice the size of the sepals), stipules divided into narrow lobes, and mericarps keeled on the dorsal face.

Synonyms of Althaea longiflora include Althaea hirsuta ssp. longiflora (Boiss. & Reut.) Thell. and Dinacrusa hirsuta ssp. longiflora (Boiss. & Reut.) G. Krebs..

Althaea ludwigii L.
 girdae butae

Distribution: Althaea ludwigii is native to North Africa, Sinai, Palestine, Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South Africa and Namibia . It is widely naturalised in India. and is also recorded from Baluchistan.

Description: Althaea ludwigii is an annual or short-lived perennial growing to up to 40 cm high, but often much less, with a thick vertical root.. The stems have a mixture of appressed-stellate and spreading simple hairs. Some stems are long, prostrate and branched, others are decumbent or ascending. The leaf stalk is slender and 1-6 cm long, decreasing in length towards the apex of the stem. The ciliate, ovate-triangular, stipules are 2-6 mm long. The leaf blades are 0.6-3 cm across, palmately dissected, with obovate-oblong lobes with rounded apices, and a covering of stellate-hairs. The flowers are borne in the leaf axils, singly or in fascicles of 2 or 3, in spring. The pedicel is 0.1-1 cm long, becoming longer in fruit. The flowers have an epicalyx of 8 to 10 linear-lanceolate, stellate-hairy, 4-5 mm long bracteoles. The sepals are 5-6 mm long, elongating to 1 cm when in fruit. They are narrowly lanceolate, becoming triangular-ovate and acuminate at the apices in fruit. The petals are about 6 mm long, and white or pink in colour. The staminal tube is hairy at the base. The fruit is a depressed-globose mericarp 5-6 mm in diameter, composed of 8 to 10 mericarps. The axis of the fruit ends in an hairy conical beak. The mericarps have sharp angles between the lateral and dorsal faces. The lateral faces are wrinkled. The seeds are lenticular or reniform, about 1 mm across, hairless, and brown in colour.

Synonyms of Althaea ludwigii include Althaea garipensis E.Mey., Althaea laevis Moench., Axolopha ludwigii Alef., Dinacrusa ludwigii (L.) G.Krebs and Malva malwensis Edgew...

Althaea australis W.R. Barker

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