Althaea officinalis


Sp. Pl. 2: 686. 1753.

Common names: Marshmallow guimauve officinale
Synonyms: Althaea sublobata Stokes A. taurinensis de Candolle Malva officinalis (Linnaeus) Schimper & Spenner
Treatment appears in FNA Volume 6. Treatment on page 233. Mentioned on page 188, 231, 232.

Herbs perennial, to 1.5 m. Stems erect, clustered, branched distally or unbranched, softly stellate-tomentose. Leaves: stipules somewhat persistent, usually caducous, linear-lanceolate, subulate, sometimes 2-fid or dentate, (2–)5–8 mm, densely stellate-hairy; petioles 1–6 cm, reduced on distal leaves, usually shorter than blade; blades of proximal leaves ovate or obscurely 3-lobed less than 1/2 to midrib, distal leaves deltate-ovate to ovate, (2–)4–10 × 2–7 cm, base truncate to cuneate, lobes acuminate or broadly acute to obtuse, middle lobe larger than others, deeply plicate, margins irregularly dentate to crenate-serrate, surfaces softly stellate-tomentose, ribs very prominent abaxially. Inflorescences solitary flowers or 2–4-flowered fascicles in leaf axil, sometimes aggregated apically into terminal false racemes. Pedicels/peduncles 0.5–4 cm; involucellar bractlets 8–12, erect, linear-lanceolate, 1/2 length of calyx, 6 mm, lobes 2–6 × 1–2 mm, stellate-tomentose. Flowers: calyx 8–10 mm, lobes narrowly ovate-acuminate, 6 mm, 2 times as long as tube, stellate-velutinous; petals usually pale pink, rarely white, cuneate-obovate, 7.5–15 × 6–13 mm, 2–3 times as long as calyx, apex obtuse or notched; staminal column 3–5 mm, glabrous or sparsely papillose-hairy; anthers in upper 1/2, dark purple; style 15–20-branched. Fruits partially concealed by incurved, somewhat accrescent calyx lobes, 7–9 mm diam.; mericarps 15–20, brown, unwinged, orbiculate-reniform, 1.5–2.5 × 2–3 mm, rugose, lateral surface smooth, membranous, dorsal surface stellate-tomentose with medial furrow. Seeds brown, reniform-round, 1.5–2 × 1–1.5 mm, glabrous. 2n = 42.

Phenology: Flowering summer–fall.
Habitat: Wet, disturbed areas, along streams, brackish sand, coastal marshes
Elevation: 0–200 m


V6 416-distribution-map.jpg

Introduced; N.B., Ont., Que., Ark., Conn., Del., Ky., Md., Mass., Mich., Nebr., N.J., N.Y., N.Dak., Ohio, Pa., Va., Wis., Eurasia, n Africa.


Althaea officinalis is occasionally cultivated for ornament, food (especially for the mucilaginous root sap once used with sugar to make marshmallows), and as a medicine; it occasionally escapes. There are few recent North American collections.

Selected References


Lower Taxa

... more about "Althaea officinalis"
Steven R. Hill +
Linnaeus +
Marshmallow +  and guimauve officinale +
N.B. +, Ont. +, Que. +, Ark. +, Conn. +, Del. +, Ky. +, Md. +, Mass. +, Mich. +, Nebr. +, N.J. +, N.Y. +, N.Dak. +, Ohio +, Pa. +, Va. +, Wis. +, Eurasia +  and n Africa. +
0–200 m +
Wet, disturbed areas, along streams, brackish sand, coastal marshes +
Flowering summer–fall. +
Illustrated +  and Introduced +
Althaea sublobata +, A. taurinensis +  and Malva officinalis +
Althaea officinalis +
species +