This is a herbaceous perennial plant about 1½-3½' tall that branches
The stems are light green, angular or terete, and glabrous to slightly
pubescent. Alternate leaves occur along these stems; they have long
petioles. Individual leaves are 1½-3¼" long and similarly across;
they are palmately lobed (3-7 primary lobes each). Individual lobes are
irregularly pinnatifid and dentate. Generally, the primary lobes of the
leaves are moderately deep, while the secondary lobes are more shallow;
lower leaves are less deeply lobed than upper leaves. The upper leaf
surface is yellowish green to dark green and glabrous, while the lower
leaf surface is light green and glabrous to slightly pubescent. The
petioles are as long as the leaves or longer; they are light green
and glabrous to slightly pubescent.
The upper and lateral
stems terminate in clusters of flowers. Each flower is 1½-2½" across,
consisting of 5 white to pink petals, 5 light green sepals, and a white
columnar structure with the reproductive organs. Individual petals are
obcordate-obdeltate with somewhat ragged outer margins; sometimes
they have fine
radiating veins that are rosy pink. The sepals are about one-third the
length of the petals, ovate in shape, and
densely pubescent; they are joined together at the base. Underneath the
sepals of each flower, there are 3 sepal-like bracts that are ovate in
shape and densely pubescent; they are a little shorter than the sepals.
Pedicels and peduncles of the flowers are light green, densely
pubescent, and rather short (less than 2" in length). The
blooming period occurs during the summer for 1-2 months. Individual
flowers are short-lived. Each flower is replaced by a ring of mericarps
(hardened structures containing one or more seeds). For this species,
contains a single seed. The mericarps are about ¼" long, reniform, and
This plant reproduces by reseeding itself.
The preference is full or partial sun, moist to dry-mesic
conditions, and soil containing loam or sandy loam. The leaves often
become yellowish in response to hot dry weather and they are
occasionally damaged by foliar disease.
The introduced Vervain Mallow has
naturalized in Kane County of NE Illinois (see Distribution
However, some naturalized populations of Malva moschata
Mallow) within the state may be Vervain Mallow instead, as these two
similar species are often confused with each other. Vervain Mallow was
introduced into North America from Eurasia as an ornamental garden
plant. It is still cultivated in gardens, from where it rarely escapes.
Habitats of naturalized populations consist of roadsides and waste
areas where there is a history of disturbance.
According to Müller (1873/1883) in Germany,
flowers of Vervain Mallow are visited primarily by honeybees, Andrenid
bees, and other bees. He also reported bee flies (Bombyliidae) and
skippers as floral visitors. These insects obtained primarily nectar
from the flowers. Some insects feed destructively on the foliage and
other parts of Vervain Mallow and other Malva spp.
insect feeders include Aphis
(Cotton Aphid) and the
caterpillars of the following butterflies, skippers, and moths: Strymon
(Gray Hairstreak), Vanessa cardui
(Painted Lady), Pyrgus
(Checkered Skipper), Anomis erosa
(Yellow Scallop Moth), and
(Gray Looper Moth).
A garden in Urbana, Illinois.
Vervain Mallow is very similar in appearance to another
mallow that is often cultivated, Musk Mallow (Malva moschata
Mallow differs from the latter species by having leaves that are less
deeply lobed, floral bracts that are ovate in shape rather than
oblong-linear, and mericarps that have hairless outer sides rather than
pubescent sides. Another species, High Mallow (Malva sylvestris
differs from the preceding mallows by having leaves that lack secondary
lobes and its flowers are often a deeper shade of pink or purple. All
of these Eurasian species have