How to identify Malva multiflora (Cretan mallow)

This project collects observations of Malva multiflora (Cretan mallow) in the San Francisco Bay Area for the purpose of facilitating identification and preventing misidentification of this species in iNaturalist.

Photo tips:

  • If there are multiple plants in the picture, crop your photo to focus on the plant of interest.
  • The following views are required to identify the species:
    ** A photo of the entire plant. Is it decumbent or upright? How tall is it?
    ** A side view of the flower. Are the petals the same length as the calyx? 2x? 6x? Are the epicalyx segments separate or joined? Wide or narrow?
    ** A close-up of the fruit enclosed in the calyx and one with the calyx peeled back or removed. Is the fruit smooth? Hairy? Wrinkled?

  • Note that Malva plants without flowers and fruits generally can’t be identified to species and should remain at the genus level (i.e., Malva).

How to identify Malva multiflora:

  • Height: Tall, shrubby habit, up to 3m (10 ft). However, it can sometimes be found growing quite low.
  • Stems: This plant has a tough, somewhat hairy stem.
  • Leaves: The leaves are multilobed with flat or wavy edges, slightly hairy, and up to 10 cm (3.9 in) in width. Upper leaves are not deeply divided.
  • Flowers: Petals are generally pink, pale purple, or white with three veins of darker pink, and up to 1.6 cm in length (0.6 in) long.
  • Calyx/Epicalyx: Flowers are longer than the calyx. The calyx lobes are generally 5 mm in length, but expand greatly once the flower has been pollinated and set seed. Epicalyx segments are shorter than the calyx and united for about 1/4 of their length.
  • Fruit: The fruit is a round, disk-like schizocarp that breaks up into 7 – 10 segments called mericarps that are smooth without hairs or ribs or only faintly veined.
  • Habitat: Disturbed places
  • Peak Flowering Time: April - June


Similar Species:

  • Malva nicaeensis (Bull Mallow)
  • Malva parviflora (Cheeseweed Mallow)
  • Malva sylvestris (Common Mallow)

How to differentiate M. multiflora from M. nicaeensis:

  • M. multiflora can be much taller (up to 10 ft); M. nicaeensis grows up to 6 dm (2 ft.)
  • M. multiflora petals are more than twice as long (up to 30 mm); M. nicaeensis has petals up to 12 mm in length.
  • M. multiflora petals dry brownish; M. nicaeensis petals dry bluish, usually with darker veins.
  • M. multiflora has epicalyx segments that are united for about ¼ of their length; M. nicaeensis has an epicalyx that is divided to the base.
  • M. multiflora has mericarps that are smooth; M. nicaeensis has rugose (wrinkled) mericarps.



Posted on May 11, 2022 03:26 PM by truthseqr truthseqr


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