What a lovely flower the common mallow (Malva sylvestris) is! Simple but beautiful, everything that wild flowers bring us in a simple package; who needs gardens full of specially bred plants when the natural world has already produced such wonders.
All the five species of mallow found in Dorset, in general, have similar five petalled mauve flowers and yet each is quite distinctive. The common mallow is more purple than the others, bordering on blue sometimes as each petal has darker veins running through it. The petals are also narrower leaving gaps between them. The flowers are visible from June until September. It is, perhaps, a bit of an untidy plant that sometime grows erect and other times can be sprawling across the ground. It grows on bare ground and is most commonly found by the sea.
Long associated with human benefits the common mallow has been used as a traditional May Day decoration. Its leaves have been used as a vegetable and its seeds used to decorate bread. It has various traditional uses as a remedy; notably a tea made from it was considered a laxative and it is also an ingredient in some modern medicines too. The plant was also used to create a yellow dye for fabrics so, all in all, a jolly useful plant to have around the garden and it can be found in traditional cottage gardens today because of its beauty and its versatility.Common Mallow: a cottage garden essential