The Lavatera Pages :
herbaceous Lavateras (section Olbia in part)

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Lavatera thuringiaca L. ssp thuringiaca
Lavatera thuringiaca
L. ssp ambigua
Lavatera cachmeriana Cambess.
Lavatera ×clementii Cheek, in part
Lavatera triloba ssp triloba L.
Lavatera triloba ssp agrigentina (Mans) Nyman
Lavatera triloba ssp pallescens (Tineo) R. Fernandes

cachmeriana Dahlem Ice Cool tauriciensis
cachmeriana thuringiaca
'Ice Cool'

There are 3 species of Lavatera which are herbaceous perennials. These are Lavatera thuringiaca, Lavatera cachmeriana and Lavatera triloba. All these belong to section Olbia, which also includes shrubby species such as Lavatera olbia and the annual Lavatera. punctata. Several shrubby hybrids between Lavatera thuringiaca and Lavatera olbia (Lavatera ×clementii) were formerly assigned to Lavatera thuringiaca, which assignment led to a widespread misapprehension in horticultural circles that Lavatera thuringiaca was a shrubby species.

Lavatera cachmeriana and Lavatera triloba have woody rootstocks. The same is observed in some plants assigned to Lavatera thuringiaca.

Lavatera thuringiaca and Lavatera cachmeriana are closely related. nrDNA sequence evidence placed Lavatera triloba closer to the shrubby and annual species of section Olbia than to the other two herbaceous species.

Within the British Isles the herbaceous Lavateras are normally known as Lavatera, rather than by an ancient vernacular name. I have encountered the use Gay Mallow as a vernacular name for Lavatera thuringiaca.

Lavatera thuringiaca L.
English Lavatera, Gay Mallow
German Thuringer-Strauchpappel
Dutch Lavatera
Danish Tysk Poppelrose
Norwegian Poppelrose
Swedish gråmalva
Estonian rõngaslill
Finnish Harmaamalvikki
Czech slézovec durynský

Lavatera thuringiaca L. is a tomentose herbaceous sub-shrub. There are two subspecies, ssp. thuringiaca and ssp. ambigua (syn Lavatera ambigua). Lavatera thuringiaca ssp. thuringiaca has a widespread range from Germany and Eastern Europe north of the Balkans to Asia Minor, Transcapsia and Siberia. Lavatera thuringiaca ssp. ambigua is to be found in Southern France, Italy, Austria, and the south west Balkans.

It has cordate orbicular to palmately (3-)5-lobed leaves. Its flowers are purplish pink. The fruit is a schizocarp of around 20 mericarps. The mericarps are glabrous, with a rounded and keeled dorsal face.

Ssp. ambigua is distinguished by the upper leaves being acutely to cuspidately lobed; in ssp. thuringiaca those leaves are sub-acutely to obstusely lobed. It also has a denser inflorescence, and shorter pedicels.

A distribution map is present on the Swedish Museum of Natural History website

Synonyms for Lavatera thuringiaca include Althaea ambigua Alefeld, Althaea ambigua Borbas, Althaea muricata Borbas, Althaea vitifolia Borbas, Lavatera muricata Panc, Lavatera thirkeana C. Koch, Lavatera vitifolia Wierzb., Lavatera vulgaris H. Martius and Malva thuringiaca (L.) Visiani. Synonyms for ssp ambigua include Lavatera ambigua DC, Lavatera cyrilli (Vis.) Schloss. & Vukot, Lavatera salvitellensis Brig, Lavatera silvestris Ten., and Malva cyrilli Visiani

Lavatera bornmuelleri Hausskn. ex Bornnt. may also be a synonym of Lavatera thuringiaca.


thuringiaca AL&JS90100JU: a selected wild-collected form.

thuringiaca 'Dahlem': 1.5-1.8m high with soft pink flowers. It comes true from seed. Named after the botanical garden at Dahlem in Berlin.

thuringiaca 'First Light': a white-flowered (with a tinge of pink) seed strain with an eventual height of 1.2m.

thuringiaca 'Ice Cool' syn. 'Peppermint Ice': flowers white, occasionally aging pink. Also comes true from seed. Reliably winter hardy in Germany, but not so in all areas of the British Isles (presumably the mild wet winters don't suit it).

thuringiaca 'Rose': a cultivated seed-strain of the species, close to the wild-type.

thuringiaca Tauricensis group: Sold under the name Lavatera tauricensis, I suspect that these are plants derived from the population of Lavatera thuringiaca found in the mountains of Crimea, and are better considered as a horticultural group, rather than a distinct natural taxon. These plants are upright, relatively compact, reaching 3-4 ft. in height when in bloom. They flower from July until the frosts, bearing rose pink flowers. They are winter hardy in continental climates, but may not be reliably hardy in the wet condition of a British winter. However copious, readily germinating, seed is produced, so replacement plants are easily obtained.

photograph of Lavatera tauricensis at
photograph of Lavatera thuringiaca 'Dahlem' at
photograph of Lavatera thuringiaca 'Ice Cool' at

thuringiaca 'Tausendschön'

Lavatera cachmeriana Cambess.

Lavatera cachmeriana is a semi-evergreen, woody-based perennial, with wiry stems. The flowers are silky, relatively narrow petalled, and clear pink in colour. The leaves are mid-green, ivy shaped, and downy. Lavatera cachmeriana is described as 'a minor variant of L. thuringiaca'; however the foliage is distinctive.

Lavatera cachemiriana var. haroonii S. Abedin is a name applied to a forms (in Pakistan), which have simple and fascicled hairs on the upper surface of the leaf, rather stellate hairs. However the variation of the indumentum includes intermediate forms, and it would appear that the variety is not worthy of recognition..

Althaea kashmiriana Kuntze and Lavatera kashmiriana are synonyms of Lavatera cachmeriana

photograph of Lavatera cachmeriana at



Lavatera ×clementii Cheek (in part)

Hybrids between Lavatera thuringiaca and Lavatera olbia are classified as Lavatera ×clementii. Most of these are shrubs, and are the predominant shrubby Lavateras in horticultural use; a score or more vegetatively propagated cultivars being available. Although they are generally sterile, seed is also occasionally offered. These are generally intermediate between the parent species, but vary in form. At least one has a herbaceous habit. It has a woody base, but the top growth mostly dies back in the autumn, and what remains is not frost hardy.

×clementii 'Barnsley Baby':

×clementii 'Candy Floss': (Sometimes known as 'Cotton Candy' in the United States.) The flowers of Lavatera ×clementii 'Candy Floss' are very similar in colouration to those of Lavatera ×clementii 'Rosea', the petals being a pale rose (RHS 75A) in colour, with darker, reddish, claws. The petals are perhaps a fraction paler. They are erose (irregularly truncated at the apex), in constrast to the bilobed petals of 'Rosea', usually spirally overlapping, and with a greater number of darker veins (~15). The anthers are white.

This cultivar has a woody base, from which herbaceous top growth sprouts in autumn, and elongates in the flowering shoots the following spring. The previous summer's growth mostly dies back in autumn, and what remains is not frost hardy.

The Royal Horticultural Society list 'Candy Floss' as a cultivar of Lavatera clementii, which I assume is based on their RAPD assay of Lavatera species and cultivars. If not for this, I would have placed 'Candy Floss' in Lavatera thuringiaca. However it agrees with the other hybrids in its reduced fertility, and in having styles intermediate in length between those of Lavatera thuringiaca and Lavatera olbia.

×clementii 'Pavlova':

Propagation: 'Candy Floss' produces seed more readily than most forms of Lavatera ×clementii, and this seed will germinate. I do not know whether it comes true from seed, if self-pollinated. (The seedlings I raised were from open-pollinated flowers, and appear to be cross-pollinated.)

I have attempted to propagate this, unsuccessfully, in autumn, using soft cuttings. The cuttings rooted readily enough, with bottom heat, but later rotted off. I suggest taking cuttings in the spring.

Pruning: In cooler climates the top growth of 'Candy Floss' mostly dies back in autumn, and can be cut back to the ground at any time between late autumn and spring, leaving the new basal shoots to provide the next season's leaves and flowers. Sometimes side shoots are formed on old growth. If it is wished to use these as propagation material pruning should be delayed.

It is possible that 'Candy Floss' behaves as a shrub in warmer climates; in which case it would be appropriate to use the same pruning regime as for other Lavatera ×clementii cultivars.

Cultivars of unknown parentage

Lavatera 'Sweet Dreams': a tall, upright plant, with flat, soft pink, flowers, with non-overlapping strongly bilobed petals. This plant sets seed abundantly, which suggests that it is a selection of Lavatera thuringiaca. (Possibly with 'Ice Cool' as one parent.)

Lavatera 'Summer Kisses': a rather sprawling plant with self-coloured pink flowers.

Lavatera 'White Angel': a tall, upright plant, producing new shoots from mid-summer; white-flowered, with non-overlapping strongly bilobed petals with pale pink claws. Flowers become slightly pink with age, but much less so than 'Barnsley'.

Lavatera 'White Satin': flowers white.

'Summer Kisses', 'Sweet Dreams', 'White Angel' and 'White Satin' all have the same PBR registration, and presumably were raised by the same person.


photograph of 'Sweet Dreams' at JVH Nurseries
photograph of 'Summer Kisses' at JDS Gardens
photograph of 'White Angel' at JDS Gardens
photograph of 'White Angel' at JVH Nurseries

Lavatera triloba L.
Lavatera triloba ssp agrigentina (Mans) Nyman
Lavatera triloba ssp pallescens (Tineo) R. Fernandes
Spanish Malvavisco loco
Italian Malvone d'Agrigento

Lavatera triloba L. is a musk-scented perennial, of damp or saline environments, from the western Mediterranean and southern Portugal, including Sicily, Calabria, Sardinia, central, southern and eastern Spain, southern Portugal, and Tunisia, northern Algeria and Morocco. It is woody at the base. It has simple, glandular, as well as fasciculate or stellate hairs. The leaves are cordate-orbicular, slightly 3-lobed; with a stalk to 9 cm in length, and stipules up to 2.5 x 1.5 cm. The flowers are found in clusters of 3 to 7; the individual stalks are shorter than that of the cluster as a whole. The epicalyx segments are 8-15 mm long, and are lanceolate to broadly ovate. The sepals are ovate and acuminate. The flowers are 3-6 cm across. Mericarps 12-16.

There are 3 subspecies. Ssp. agrigentina (Mans) Nyman, from Calabria and Sicily, has yellow flowers. Ssp. pallescens (Tineo) R. Fernandes, from Menorca in the Balearic Is. and San Pietro island near Sardinia, has purplish or pale pink flowers. The petals are smaller, barely exceeding the sepals in size. Ssp. triloba, from central, south and east Spain, southern Portugal, Sardinia and North Africa, has purple or yellow or purple flushed with yellow flowers. (Both ssp. agrigentina and ssp. triloba are reported from Algeria.) There are other distinguishing features for the subspecies. agrigentina has soft hairs on the the stems and stalks, whereas the other subspecies have harsh hairs on at least the stalks. triloba has larger leaves (to 8 cm), which are crenate, flat or slightly undulate, whereas pallescens has smaller, crispate-undulate leaves, and free, or nearly so, epicalyx segments.

Synonyms: Synonyms for Lavatera triloba include Althaea micans Kuntze, Lavatera calycina Poir., Lavatera lusitanica L., Lavatera moschata Moris and Lavatera micans L.. Synonyms for subspecies triloba include Althaea triloba Kuntze, Lavatera flava var purpurea Maire, and Lavatera rotundata Lazar. Synonyms for subspecies agrigentina include Althaea agrigentina Borbas, Althaea flava Kuntze, Lavatera agrigentina Tineo and Lavatera flava Desf. Synonyms for subspecies pallescens include Althaea minoricensis Borbas, Althaea pallescens Borbas, Lavatera flava var minoricensis (Cambess.) Pau, Lavatera minoricensis Camb., Lavatera pallescens Moris, Malva minoricensis Rodrig. and Malva mulleri Hochst.



photograph (ssp. agrigentina, plant) at Department of Botany, U of Catania
photograph (ssp. agrigentina, flower) at Department of Botany, U of Catania
photograph (ssp. pallascens) at Universitat de les Illes Balears
photograph (ssp. triloba) at Arboles Ornamentales


Photographs are © Gerhard Sandtner, and are reproduced with permission.


If you have found any errors on this page, or have any further information about the genus Lavatera then please contact me at

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