Malva neglecta (cheesewood, cheese mallow, running mallow, buttonwood, dwarf mallow)

description: winter or summer annual or biennial

place of origin: Eurasia

urban habitat: commonly found in neglected residential, commercial landscapes, vacant lots, and roadsides; can tolerate dry or moist soils and can thrive in shade or full sun; low-growing spreading plant.

ecological function:
disturbance-adapted colonizer of bare ground; has nitrogen-fixing properties.

history: Malva neglecta was probably introduced early to North America from Europe and is now distributed widely across North America. The plant has been used medicinally in Europe as an anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, emollient, as treatment for coughs, constipation, bruises, insect bites, and respiratory system diseases. Several Native American tribes used decoctions of the plant to treat inflammation, sores, broken bones, stomach aches, and the Iriquois used an infusion of the plant as a love medicine. The young leaves and shoots are edible, highly nutritious, and can be used in salads as a lettuce substitute or cooked as greens. The mucilanginous properties of the leaves can be used to thicken soups much in the same way as okra. A decoction of the root is used as an egg-white substitute for making meringue and a tea can be made from its leaves. A yellow and green dye can be obtained from the plant and seed heads.