The Malvella Page

Mavella lepidota (A. Gray) Fryxell
Malvella leprosa (Ortega) Krapov.
Malvella sagittifolia (A. Gray) Fryxell
Malvella sherardiana (L.) Jaub. & Spach

Malvaceae Info (Home)


Malvella is a genus of 4 species of low-growing perennial Malvaceous herbs, one native to the Mediterranean region, and the remainder to the south western United States and adjacent parts of Mexico. Malvella leprosa is also native to Argentina [6] and Chile. It is similar in overall appearance to the low growing annual species of Malva, such as Malva parviflora, but differs in a number of technical characters of the flower and fruit: the petals have rounded apices, compared to the emarginate (bilobed) petals of Malva; the stigmas are capitate, rather than filiform; the mericarps are inflated; and the seeds pendulous within the mericarp, rather than ascending. The American species also differ in having a lepidote rather than a stellate indumentum; and Malvella lepidota and Malvella sagittifolia in the epicalyx being absent or early caducuous.


The genus was introduced by Jaubert and Spach, in the 1850s, based on Linnaeus' Malva sherardiana. This species has also been placed in Sida (Sida sherardiana Benth.). The remaining species were tranferred from Sida in the 1970s. The American species had previously been segregated from Sida, as Disella, by Greene.

The general form of the plants place them within the speciose Abutilon-Sida clade within tribe Malveae and sub-family Malvoideae of Malvaceae. A published ITS DNA sequence place Malvella sagittifolia on the fringes of this clade. (There is an unpublished ITS DNA sequence for Malvella sherardiana.)

Malvella sherardiana (L.) Jaub. & Spach

Malvella sherardiana is a perennial herb native to Spain (including Menorca), south eastern Europe (Greece and Bulgaria), Crimea, Caucasia, northern Iran, Turkey, Cyprus and the Levant.

Malvella sherardiana has a prostrate habit. The stems are have a covering of stellate hairs. The leaves are relatively small, being 1 to 3 cm long. The oblong stipules are impersistent. The blade has a rounded outline. It is unlobed, shallowly and broadly cordate at the base, with a crenate margin, prominent palmate veins, and stellate hairs on both surfaces.

The flowers are borne singly in the leaf axils, on long (2 to 5 cm) stalks, from late spring to late summer. As in most mallows, they are hermaphrodite. They have an epicalyx of 3 narrowly linear, free, bracteoles, which are about half the length of the calyx or less. The calyx is composed of 5 sepals, fused at their bases, with triangular lobes, which are accrescent in fruit. It is about 5 mm long. The corolla is composed of 5 deep pink, or white, petals. These petals are entire, i.e. lack the lobed or crinkled apices found in many mallows, and are about 1 cm long. The stigmas are capitate to clavate, i.e. spherical to club-shaped in form.

The fruit is a schizocarp composed of 8 to 15 inflated, single-seeded, indehiscent, hairy, mericarps.

Synonyms of Malvella sherardiana include Malva cymbalarifolia Desr., Malva humifusa Salisb., Malva sherardiana L., Malvella cymbalariaefolia Boiss. and Sida sherardiana Benth..

Malvella leprosa (Ortega) Krapov.
 Alkali Mallow, Alkali Sida, Dollar Weed, Ivy Leaved Sida, Whiteweed

M. leprosa is a perennial herb native to the southern and western United States (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas), to northern Mexico, including Baja California (Vizcaino) and the borders of Durango, Chihuahua and Coahuila (Mapimi), and to parts of southern South America. It is an introduced weed in Australia, including Victoria and the Adelaide Plains of South Australia. (The sale of its seeds is prohibited in Western Australia, suggesting that it is naturalised and a nuisance in that state as well.)

The stems are prostrate, 10 to 50 cm. long, bending upwards at their apices. The leaves are 1-5 cm. wide, and shorter than they are wide. They are ovate-subcordate to obliquely sub-reniform in shape, with crenate margins, and palmately veined, with the veins prominent on the undersurface. The petioles are stout and 1-2 cm long. The stipules are linear to awl-shaped, 3-4 mm. long, and marcescent. All vegetative parts have a dense covering of whitish stellate to scurfy hairs.

The flowers are borne throughout summer and early autumn. The epicalyx is composed of from 1 to 3 small (3-5 mm. long) linear bracteoles. The calyx is campanulate to turbinate in shape, with ovate to ovate lanceolate lobes twice the length of the bracteoles. The petals are 1 to 2 cm. long (in most of the range towards the lower limit), and are narrowly obovate in shape. They are white, cream or pale yellow in colour, sometimes with an orange tint, and dotted or suffused with lavender or rose. They can be reddish in bud. The staminal column is short and glabrous. The fruit is a truncated cone, about 5-8 mm. across and 4-5 mm. tall, composed of 6 to 10 dark brown, triangular, mericarps, with a sparse covering of stellate hairs on the dorsal face.

Synonyms of Malvella leprosa include Disella hederacea (Douglas ex Hook.) Greene, Malva albiflora Larraņaga, Malva californica C.Presl, Malva hederacea Douglas, Malva leprosa Ortega, Malva sulphurea Gillies, Malvastrum sulphureum (Gillies) Griseb., Sida hederacea var. sulphurea (Gillies) Baker f., Sida hederacea (Douglas) Torr., Sida leprosa var. hederacea (Dougl.) K.Schum., Sida leprosa var. sulphurea (Hook. & Arn.) Hochr., Sida leprosa (Ortega) K.Schum., Sida obliqua Torr. & A.Gray and Sida sulphurea (Gillies) A.Gray.

Malvella lepidota (A. Gray) Fryxell
 Scurfy Sida

M. lepidota is a perennial herb native to the south western United States (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada) and northern Mexico. Its habitat is dry hillsides and fields.

The vegetative parts are covered with a mixture of stellate and lepidote hairs; the latter are fringed. The leaves are palmately veined, triangular and irregularly toothed, leaves. They are are an inch or more in length. The flowers are borne singly in the leaf axils, from spring to autumn. The pedicels are up to 5 cm in length. The petals are 1 to 1.5 cm long and are yellow, pink or white.

Synonyms of Malvella lepidota include Disella lepidota Greene, Sida lepidota A.Gray and Sida leprosa var. depauperata (Gray) I. Clem..

Malvella sagittifolia (A. Gray) Fryxell
 Arrow Leaf Mallow

M. sagittifolia is a perennial herb native to the south western United States (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado). It might also be found in northern Mexico.

It has narrowly sagittate leaves, and lepidote hairs lacking fringes. The petals are 1.25 to 1.5 cm. long and are yellow or white, sometimes suffused with red.

Synonyms of Malvella sagittifolia include Disella sagittifolia Greene, Sida lepidota var. sagittifolia A.Gray, Sida leprosa var. sagittifolia (Gray) I. Clem. and Sida sagittifolia (Gray) Rydb..


  • photographs of Malvella lepidota at Southwest Environmental Information Network
  • photographs of Malvella sherardiana
  • References

    1. INRA (Synonymy of the French Flora)
    2. International Plant Name Index
    3. USDA Plant Database
    4. Jepson Flora Project
    5. Flora Europaea Vol. 2
    6. Catálogo de los Plantas Vasculares de la Argentina
    7. Harold William Rickett, The Wildflowers of the US, 3:1: 122-4, 4:1: 173, 5:1: 157, 6:1: 188
    8. K. Kubitzki and C. Bayer, The Families and Genera of Flowering Plants Vol. 5 (2003)
    9. Leroy Abrams, Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States Vol. 3 (1951)
    10. J. Cullen, in P.H. Davis, Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands
    11. I. Riedl, in K.H. Rechinger, Flora Iranica (1976)


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    © 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 Stewart Robert Hinsley