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The Malvaceae -- or mallow -- family is easy to identify and fun to use. Mallow flowers are bisexual and symmetrical, with five sepals (the green parts that protect the flower bud) and five colored petals. But, you say, many plants, like wild roses and geraniums, have five sepals and five petals. What sets the Malvaceae, or mallow, family apart? Imagine, if you will, a hibiscus blossom -- or look at a picture or drawing of one. The "tongue" sticking out of the petals is the pistil (the female part of the flower). The tip of the pistil is the stigma, and in this family it is divided into numerous fingers. Between the stigma and the ovary -- which is nestled at the base of the petals and which will ripen into a seed capsule -- is the part of the pistil called the style. Numerous fused stamens (the male parts of the flower) cluster on and around the style. This is the distinctive feature of all Malvaceae flowers. The mallow family contains nearly 200 genera (a genus is a group of closely related plants within a family, and genera is plural of genus) -- including Alcea, Althea, Malva, Hoheria, Hibiscus, and Gossypium -- and more than 2000 species (specific plants within each genus). The mallow family includes beautiful, edible, medicinal, and useful plants such as hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, hollyhock, marshmallow, okra, jute, and cotton. Virtually all parts of the mallows have been eaten or used as medicine including the fresh leaves, dried leaves, fresh roots, dried roots, and both green and ripe seeds. The primary effect of most mallows is to soothe and heal mucus surfaces. Overheated respiratory, digestive, reproductive, and urinary systems especially benefit. The mucilage present in the roots and seeds, and to a lesser degree the leaves, can help ease and heal irritations and infections such as sore throats, acid indigestion, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, bronchitis, chronic coughs, badder infections, interstitial cystitis, colds, and dry mouth. Some sources find mallow medicine helpful for those with diabetes, painful periods, and lack of menstruation. Of course mallows are superb helpers for healing and relieving the pain of cuts, scrapes, boils, bruises, swellings, and stings. Ointments, fresh leaves and roots, and the whole plant pounded into a juicy pulp have been used for thousands of years to treat a vast array of skin problems and severe wounds. I especially like mixing chopped fresh hibiscus or mallow leaves with honey and applying this to my eyelids to relieve tired, sore, dry eyes. Works great as a facial, too! The most common wild mallow at Laughing Rock Farm is "cheeses" (Malva neglecta). They are virtually evergreen, providing delicious greens for salads and cooking, and mucilaginous roots for healing, well into the cold months. The same is true of common mallow (Malva sylvestris). marshmallow (Althea officinalis), the one most often cited as medicinal, and whichever mallow graces your home. ~~Susun Weed
Seemingly everywhere, considered a weed but of course it is not. These have frost on them.