Wyrtig

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312
.
  

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Marsh mallow flowers, from Wikimedia Commons

Marsh mallow
Althaea officinalis
 


Marsh mallow in early sources


Description    Propagation    Cultivation     Harvest

 

Scientific name

Althaea officinalis
 
Marsh mallow bud, image from Wikimedia CommonsCommon names, modern

 

Cheeses (from the shape of the buds, seen at left, Guimauve (see below), Hock herb, Mallards, March mallow,  Marsh mallow, Mauls, Mortification plant, Schloss tea, Sweet weed, White mallow, Wymote

Althea is derived from the Greek word althaínō, "to heal"; officinalis designates plants with medicinal use, and is derived from the Latin officina, originally the name for a work- or store-room in a monastery.

Mallow is derived from the Greek malake, "soft," which also gives us the name for the plant genus MalvaMersc is Old English for "marsh," where this plant often grew. Our color name, "mauve," also has its roots in the word malva.  Today the French  make a lovely, marshmallow-like confection known as  Guimauve.

The modern confection we call marshmallow (which no longer has any ingredients taken from the marsh mallow plant in it at all) had its origins as a medicine used to treat mouth and throat irritation and disorders of the GI tract.

Description

Lifespan

Perennial

Cold hardiness Hardy to Zone 4
Marsh mallow plant; image from WikimediaSize

Habit

 

3-4' tall; may need staking

Taller than it is wide, best grown in groups, with plants spaced 2' apart

Marsh mallow flower, image from Wikimedia CommonsFlower

Five pale pink petals surround a cluster of darker, purplish pink stamens. The flowers are about 2" across, and bloom from mid-summer to early fall.

Marsh mallow foliage, image from Wikimedia CommonsFoliage

Light green, downy leaves are finely toothed, and resemble a velvety maple leaf.

Comments A good bee and hummingbird plant
Propagation
By seed Easy to grow from seed, and self-seeds each year; gather seed in late summer and early fall. Seed doesn't store well, so stratify soon after gathering.
Germination temperature Needs stratification at 39o for 4-6 weeks; then grow on at 68o
Germination time Germination can be irregular; be patient
Moisture Keep moist but not wet
Light Needs light to germinate, so cover seed very, very lightly

Cultivation

Soil Prefers a sandy, moist soil that is well-drained; can grow in a wide range of pH
Moisture Will grow just about anywhere, and tolerates brief drought conditions, but will die out in waterlogged soil, despite its name.
Light Full sun to very light shade
Natural habitat Likes slightly damp locations -- meadows, river banks, ditches -- but grows well in ordinary garden soil, too
Pests and diseases

Like many plants, mallows occasionally suffer from fungal diseases and mildew. A simple remedy that is often very effective is to spray the plants with milk. Powdered milk works well, as there is less fat to clog the sprayer, and it is easy to store and to make up into your spray solution as you need it. Use 1/3 cup of powdered milk to 1 cup of water, and mix well. Spray the plant leaves, top and underside, and also the ground at the base of the plant. Repeat weekly as needed, and after rain. 

Harvest
Season to bloom/bear Flowers from midsummer to early fall.
Seed collection

 

Marsh mallow seed headGather seed from seed heads that have dried completely, but before they are fully open. Because the seed loses fertility very quickly, stratify immediately after harvesting.

 

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Botanists are among those who know that, in spite of the rude shocks of life,
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F.D. Drewitt

 

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