The Althaea Pages:
Perennial Marshmallows

The Althaea Pages

Althaea armeniaca Ten.
Althaea cannabina L.
Althaea officinalis L.
Althaea taurinensis L.

There is disagreement on the classification of the perennial marshamallows. The common marshmallow, Althaea officinalis, and the hemp-leaved marshmallow, Althaea cannabina, both of which are regularly grown in gardens, are universally recognised. Althaea taurinensis is usually considered a hybrid of the former two species, but is given as a species in Flora Iranica. Krebs [1] and INRA [2] consider Althaea armeniaca to be a synonym of Althaea taurinensis, but it is recognised as a distinct species in Flora Europaea [3], Flora Iranica [4] and the Flora of Turkey [5]. As the hybrid Althaea officinalis × cannabina would be triploid, and hence would be expected to be sterile, and as seed of Althaea armeniaca is commercially available from several sources, I lean towards the latter position.

Althaea officinalis L.
 Common Marshmallow, Marshmallow
 guimauve, guimauve officinale, guimauve sauvage, mauve blanche
 Altea, Malvaísco
 Altea comune, Bismalva, Bonavischio, Malvavischio
 nalba, nalba alba, nalba buna, nalba de cimp, nalba de lunca, ruja
 Eibisch, Eibisch Samtpappel, Samtpappel, Althee, Ibischwurz, Heilwurz, Weiße Malve, Adewurz, Schleimwurzel
 harilik altee
 Lěkarska popla
 prawoślaz lekarski
 proskurník lékarský
 ibiš konopovitý, ibiš lekársky
 slez, ajbiš
 bijeli sljez, ljekoviti bijeli sljez
 beli slez, Бели слез
 Алтей лекарственный
 Алте́я лі́карська
 vaistinė svilarožė
 ārstniecības alteja
 fehér mályva, orvozi ziliz
 Mëllaga mjekësore
 Hocys y Morfa
 officina altea
 yao kui

flowerAlthaea officinalis is an erect perennial reaching 1.5m in height. The young stems and foliage are softly stellate-tomentose. The leaves are shallowly 3-5 lobed (unlobed in first season). The petals are pale pink, or, rarely, white, in colour, and 15-20 mm long.

Althaea officinalis is distributed principally in Mediterranean Europe (excluding coastal regions of Turkey in Europe, southern Greece, the southern tip of Sicily, and Murcia), the Balkans (excluding the Carpathian Mountains), and in the steppe zone of eastern Europe and west central Asia. It is also found in coastal regions of Atlantic Europe as far as southern Ireland, southern England and Holland (but is absent from northwest Iberia), and is naturalised in other parts of western Europe. There are outlying populations in eastern Algeria, southwest Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan.

Althaea officinalis has a chromosome count of 42.

Synonyms of Althaea officinalis include Althaea balearica Rodrigeuz, Althaea kragujevacensis Pan., Althaea micrantha Wiesb. ex Borbas, Althaea officinalis var. obtusifolia , Althaea sublobata Stokes, Althaea taurinensis DC., Althaea vulgaris Bubani, Malva althaea E.H.L.Krause, Malva althaea F.W.Schultz, Malva maritima Salisb. and Malva officinalis (L.) Schimper & Spenner.


'Alba': a white-flowered form.
'Romney Marsh': pink flowers in dense terminal clusters.
'Roussalka': a selected (for mucilage production?) form with an upright habit.

Althaea cannabina L.
 hemp-leaved marshmallow
 Guimauve faux chanvre, Guimauve à feuilles de chanvre, Guimauve à feuilles de cannabis
 malví canemer
 Altea canapina, Malva canapina
 prawoślaz konopiowaty
 kopljasti bijeli sljez

flowerAlthaea cannabina is found in southern and central Europe, southern Russia, Caucasia, north and northwest Iran, and Turkestan.

Althaea cannabina is a tall perennial regularly exceeding 1 m in height. (I have seen cultivated specimens well in excess of 2 m.) The stems are erect with an indumentum of small stellate hairs. The leaves are 3-5-lobed almost to the base, with oblong to lanceolate deeply toothed segments. They have stellate hairs on both surfaces. The inflorescence is borne in the leaf axils and is both fasciculate and penduculate, each peduncle bearing one or two flowers. The sepals are 5-6 mm long, and acuminate at the apex. The petals are 11-16 mm long, and pink in colour. The fruit is a schizocarp, composed of single-seeded mericarps. The mericarps are rugose, and hairless.

A variety with less divided leaves with broader segments was named as Althaea kotschyi Boiss., but this intergrades with the typical forms. [5]

The chromosome count is 84.

Synonyms of Althaea cannabina include Althaea cannabina ssp. narbonensis (Cav.) Nyman, Althaea kotschyi Boiss. and Althaea narbonensis Pourr..

Althaea armeniaca Ten.
 Armenische Malve
 armeenia altee
 proskurník arménský

Althaea armeniaca is found in southern Russia, Caucasia, northern Iran, Transcaspia and Turkestan

Althaea armeniaca is a tall perennial herb, with villous stems. The leaves are deeply divided into 3 lobes (but not divided to the base) with ovate-lanceolate lobes, the cetnral lobe being longer than the others. The leaf margins are toothed. The leaf surfaces have a villous indumentum of stellate-hairs. The flowers are borne on multi-flowered peduncles. The petals are about 15 mm long, and red in colour. The mericarps have a rough surface and pilose covering of stellate hairs.

Synonyms of Althaea armeniaca include Althaea broussonetiifolia Iljin, Althaea multiflora Rchb. and Althaea taurinensis C.A.Mey.

Althaea taurinensis L.
 prawoślaz taurydzki

Synonyms of Althaea taurinensis include Althaea macrantha Wiesb. and Althaea pavisii Gu.


  1. G. Krebs, Taxonomische Untersuchunger in der Subtribus Malvinae, Feddes Repertorium 105: 1-2, 7-18 (1994)
  2. INRA (Synonymy of the French Flora)
  3. Tutin, Althaea, in Flora Europaea Vol. 2
  4. Riedl, Malvaceae, in Rechinger, Flora Iranica 120: 1-86 (1976)
  5. Cullen, Malvaceae, in Davis, Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands


  1. Krebs, Taxonomische Untersuchunger in der Subtribus Malvinae, Feddes Repertorium 105: 1-2, 7-18 (1994)
  2. Index Synonymique de la Flore de France (INRA) (1999)
  3. Tutin, Flora Europaea 2:
  4. Rield, Flora Iranica
  5. P.H. Davis, Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands (1967)

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