Althaea nicaeensis (All.) Alef.
Common Name: Bull Mallow
Malva nicaeensis is an erect or ascending annual to biennial plant ; it can grow 20 - 60cm tall. It produces one to several stems which can be unbranched or with long branches growing from the base[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials.
Although we have seen no reports of toxicity for this species, when grown on nitrogen rich soils (and particularly when these are cultivated inorganically), the leaves of some species tend to concentrate high levels of nitrates in their leaves[
]. The leaves are perfectly wholesome at all other times.
Mediterranean - from Portugal to Greece in Europe, Morocco to Egypt in Africa and Turkey tp Israel in Asia
Stony and rocky ground[
]. Near fences and houses, derelict places[
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A very easily grown plant, succeeding in ordinary garden soil[
], though it prefers a reasonably well-drained and moderately fertile soil in a sunny position[
Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[
Plants are prone to infestation by rust fungus[
Plants can flower all year round, especially in mild-winter areas[
This species is closely related to Malva sylvestris[
]. Plants growing in an open sunny position in the Order Beds at Cambridge Botanical gardens are very similar to Malva sylvestris and, like that species, are clearly perennating, even though we have read reports that they are annual[
Leaves - raw or cooked[
]. A very mild flavour with a mucilaginous texture, they make a very acceptable part of a mixed salad, or a good filling for a salad sandwich, though they are somewhat boring on their own[
]. The cooked leaf has a rather slimy texture[
Seed - raw. Best used before it is fully mature, the seed has a pleasant nutty taste but it is rather small and fiddly to harvest[
A decoction of the plant has been used in the treatment of migraine headaches[
]. A poultice of the heated leaves has been applied to the head or stomach to relieve pain[
A decoction of the roots has been used to treat fevers, especially in children[
The aerial parts of the plant have been shown to have a moderately strong inhibitory effect on the production of pancreatic lipase, thus helping to lower lipid levels in the body. It could, therefore, have a role to play in the treatment of obesity[
Cream, yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the plant and the seed heads[
A decoction of the roots has been used as a hair rinse[
Seed - sow early spring in situ. Germination should take place within 2 weeks.