The Malva Pages:
Musk Mallows (section Bismalva)

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flower of Malva moschata  2002 Stewart R. Hinsley

Malva alcea L.
Malva moschata L.
Malva tournefortiana L.

The musk mallows are a group of 3 very similar perennial mallows, with rounded lower leaves and usually deeply dissected upper leaves. They are Malva moschata (musk mallow), Malva alcea (greater musk mallow) and Malva tournefortiana. They all have fan-shaped petals, in shades of pink, white or lavender, borne in leaf axils and in congested terminal clusters.

In all cases the foliage is variable and cannot be reliably used to distinguish the species. Identification can be performed using the shape of the bracteoles (lanceolate - more than 3 times as long as wide - in Malva moschata and Malva tournefortiana, ovate - less than 3 times as long as wide - in Malva alcea), the indumentum of the calyx, epicalyx and pedicel (stellate in Malva alcea and Malva tournefortiana, simple in Malva moschata) and the mericarps (long white hairs in Malva moschata, absent or with short hairs in Malva alcea and Malva tournefortiana).

Malva colmerei Wilkomm., from northern Portugual and Galicia, is sometimes assigned to Malva alcea and sometimes to Malva tournefortiana.

The hybrid between Malva alcea and Malva moschata is named Malva ×intermedia. I have seen a plant grown under the name of Malva alcea 'Fastigiata' which was apparently sterile (Malva ×intermedia is triploid, and would be expected to be sterile), and may represent this hybrid.

The annual mallows Malva aegyptia, Malva cretica and Malva trifida are similar to the musk mallows in certain respects.

Malva moschata, particularly the white form, is commonly grown in gardens as an ornamental. Malva alcea is also grown as an ornamental.

The recent introduction Malva 'Sweet Sixteen', which is dwarf, and floriferous, with pink flowers, appears to be a form of Malva moschata, but on the information available to me I can't exclude Malva alcea and Malva ×intermedia.

Malva moschata
 Musk Mallow
 St. Simeon's Herb
 Mauve musquée
 Malva moscata
 Nalbă moşată
 Bisam-Malve, Moschus-Malve
 desmeros, myskmalva
 Wonjaty šlěz
 ślaz piżmowy
 slézovník pižmový, sléz pižmový
 slez pižmový
 Muškatni slezenovec
 Kvapioji dedešva
 smaržīgā malva
 Hocysen Fws
 Malvo moska

Malva moschata is an erect perennial reaching upto 3 feet in height, bearing pink or white flowers in early summer. It is native to western and central Europe with localised populations in North Africa and eastern Europe, and is widely naturalised in North America.

Detailed description with photo-illustrations (in preparation).


Synonyms: Synonyms for Malva moschata include  Alcea pinnatifida Gilib., Bismalva laciniata Fourr., Bismalva moschata Medik., Malva alcea ssp. moschata Bonnier & Layens, Malva cordistipula Steud., Malva geranifolia Gay, Malva laciniata Desr., Malva lamottei Jord., Malva moschata ssp. orsiniana (Ten.) Arcangeli, Malva moschata var. intermedia Godr., Malva moschata var. laciniata Godr., Malva moschata var. ramondiana Godr., Malva orsiniana Ten. and Malva tenuifolia Savi.

Malva alcea
 Cut-leaved Mallow, Greater Musk Mallow, Hollyhock Mallow
 Vervain Mallow
 Malva alcea
 Rosen Malve, Rosenpappel, Sigmarskraut, Spitzblättrige Malve
 Vijfdelig Kaasjesktuid
 Stojaty šlěz
 ślaz zygmarek
 sléz lécivý, sléz velkokvetý, slézovník velkokvetý
 slez liečivý
 Ostrolistni slezenovec
 Aukštoji dedešva
 rožu malva
 Érdes mályva
 Malvo kvinslipa

An erect perennial reaching between 1 and 4 feet in height, bearing bright pink flowers in early summer.

Detailed description with photo-illustrations (in preparation).


Synonyms: Synonyms for Malva alcea include  Alcea palmata Gilib., Bismalva alcea Medik., Bismalva fastigiata Fourr., Malva abulensis Cav., Malva alcea ssp. fastigiata Nyman, Malva alcea ssp. multidendata Koch, Malva bilobata Merino, Malva cannabina Serres, Malva colmeroi Willk., Malva divotiana Biau, Malva excisa Reichenb., Malva intermedia Bor., Malva italica Poll., Malva lagascae Lzaro Ibiza & Tubilla, Malva lobata Cav., Malva ovata Dulac and Malva ribifolia Viv..

Malva tournefortiana L.

Malva tournefortiana L. is a less robust species from the Iberian peninsular, southern France and Morocco. Apart from its more delicate form it shows a mixture of characters from Malva alcea and Malva moschata. It has lanceolate bracteoles as in Malva moschata, not ovate as in Malva alcea; it has stellate hairs on the pedicel as in Malva alcea, not simple as in Malva moschata; it has a more or less glabrous nutlet as in Malva alcea, not with long white hairs as in Malva moschata. The flowers are smaller than in either Malva moschata or Malva alcea, and are pale pink.

Cytology: Like Malva moschata Malva tournefortiana has 42 chromosomes in its diploid complement.

Synonyms: Synonyms for Malva tournefortiana include  Bismalva tournefortiana Fourr., Malva cuneata Merino, Malva hornemannii Bubani, Malva maritima Lam., Malva moschata ssp. tournefortiana (L.) Rouy, Malva moschata var. geranifolia J.Gay, Malva moschata var. tenuifolia Guss., Malva stipulacea Cav. and Malva tenuifolia Desr..


  • photograph of flower at Almería Natural
  • References

    1. Flora Europaea
    2. Baker


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    © 2004 Stewart Robert Hinsley