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1 May 2012

Malva sylvestris - Common Mallow - Mauve des bois

Malva sylvestris growing wild amongst the ruins of the Antonine Baths in Carthage.


As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, a visit to see Roman ruins is also a great opportunity to identify and photograph plants.  It was whilst we were at the Antonine Baths in Carthage recently that my husband identified Malva sylvestris which was growing in the wild and I photographed it keen to include it in my blog.  When I carried out some research about it I discovered that "In the past, the flowers were spread on doorways and woven into garlands or chaplets for celebrating May Day."  I thought it would be very apt to do a blog post about it today as it is May Day.  I wonder how many people still carry on the tradition of weaving Malva sylvestris into garlands and hanging it above their doorways?


"Malva sylvestris is a species of the Mallow genus Malwa in the family of Malvaceae and is considered to be the type species for the genus. Known as common mallow to English speaking Europeans,  and (mauve des bois by the French) as it migrated from its native home in Western Europe, North Africa and Asia.  M. sylvestris is a vigorously healthy plant with showy flowers of bright mauve-purple, with dark veins; a handsome plant, often standing 3 or 4 feet (1 m) high and growing freely in fields, hedgerows and in fallow fields.  



Description
Malva sylvestris is a spreading herb which is an annual in North Africa, biennial in the Mediterranean and a perennial elsewhere  Three feet (one meter) tall, (3 meters has been observed in a wild or escaped from cultivation setting, and several cultivated plants of 2 meter or more in height) with a growth habit which can be straight or decumbent, branched and covered with fine soft hairs or none at all, M. sylvestris is pleasing in appearance when it first starts to flower, but as the summer advances, "the leaves lose their deep green color and the stems assume a ragged appearance".

Decoration
In the past, the flowers were spread on doorways and woven into garlands or chaplets for celebrating May Day."
Malva sylvestris growing wild amongst the ruins of the Antonine Baths in Carthage.

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