Malva neglecta (Common Mallow)

Plant Info
Also known as: Cheeses, Cheeseweed
Family:Malvaceae (Mallow)
Life cycle:annual, biennial
Origin:Eurasia, N. Africa
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; lawns, gardens, waste places
Bloom season:May - October
Plant height:6 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: whorled

[photo of flowers] Flowers are borne on ½ to 1 inch long stalks, in clusters (fascicles) at the leaf axils along the stem. Flowers are ¼ to ½ inch across, white to pale pink with deeper pink streaks, with five squarish petals, the flat tips with slight, wavy lobes. In the center is a column of pink styles and numerous white stamens. The 5 sepals are broadly triangular and pointed, about half the length of the petals and hidden behind the flower.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are round to kidney shaped, mostly deeply heart-shaped at the base, 1 to 3 inches wide, on stalks 3 to 6 inches long. The blade has 5 to 9 shallow, round to pointed lobes with sharp or blunt teeth around the edges. Upper surface is dark green and smooth to sparsely hairy, the lower surface lighter green and more densely hairy. The stems and leaf stalks have very fine, short hairs becoming nearly smooth with age. Stems are 4 to 12 inches long and branch out from the base. Often there is one or several central erect stems with other stems spreading prostrate on the ground, ascending at the tips (decumbent).

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is flat and round, much like a wheel of cheese though its center is dimpled. The wheel is about ¼ inch across, sitting in a leafy cup formed by the now visible sepals. It is divided into 13-15 seed containing carpels that split apart at maturity.

[photo of seeds] Individual carpels are crescent moon shaped, the outer surface smooth with a finely hairy coat, the flat sides are smooth as well.


Common Mallow and its similar cousin Round-leaved Mallow (Malva rotundifolia) are old world introductions now widely distributed across North America. They exhibit the same weedy behavior, appearing in lawns, gardens, agricultural fields, urban waste areas, even cracks in concrete. Though the leaves are much the same the species are not really difficult to tell apart if flowers or fruit are present. While still small, Malva neglecta flowers are more visibly showy, twice the size of M. rotundifolia, completely hiding the shorter sepals, and often brightly shaded pink with deeper colored streaks. More reliable yet is the smooth, finely hairy surface of its fruit. In comparison, the sepals of M. rotundifolia are about as long as the petals, which are more consistently white, and its fruit has a noticeably bumpy texture. We have little doubt that both species are under-reported in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Pope counties, and in North Dakota. Seed photos courtesy Richard Haug.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Nora - Pine River
on: 2014-07-28 13:58:35

Recently found a few of these plants in an open field/waste land type setting. The leaves look slightly more lobed with deeper sinuses than the image, but everything else seems to match exactly.

Posted by: Eve - Duluth, MN
on: 2016-07-10 16:34:56

I found a Musk Mallow (Malva moschata) in my yard in Duluth,MN. I am absolutely positive that is what it is and it is not listed on the MN flower list!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-10 18:14:20

Eve, if you did not plant it then it escaped from someone else's garden. Not all such garden escapees are considered "wild" plants in Minnesota. M. moschata has only been one recorded once in the state (in Duluth, BTW), though that doesn't mean it isn't out there in greater numbers. I do know of a single plant at a local park that has persisted for 10 years but hasn't seemed to have spread. It is considered a weedy pest in parts of eastern Canada and the US but not especially invasive. Maybe in another 50 years it will decide to explode like tansy has but in the meantime it isn't widespread enough in MN to get anybody's attention.

Posted by: Therese J - Alvarado
on: 2017-08-09 08:20:02

Found this plant in our yard near our garden. We live on 3 acres surrounded by cultivated farmland. I thought this plant was creeping charlie until it grew taller and bore flowers. Rather pretty, so I let it grow!

Posted by: Kenny h - Mower county Shooting Star Trail
on: 2017-09-01 15:48:57

I think the Malva neglecta state chart has been stuff grows all over Mower County.

Posted by: Kristine Carlson - Willmar, MN (Kandiyohi County)
on: 2019-07-09 12:48:12

I found several of these plants growing at Ridgewater Community College following their burn of a meadow this year. The meadow is highly disturbed and home to mostly invasive species.

Posted by: Steve Poole - Lost Valley Prairie SNA Washington County
on: 2019-07-18 14:36:20

Just found this three days ago. Only two plants in a disturbed area. Used your site to identify it and drew a blank. The other malvas don't have the divided leaves. Someone on facebook suggested musk mallow. I checked out the pictures on Google and there it was. I will let Russel Smith know and then pull the plants on Saturday.

Posted by: Taylor - Chisholm
on: 2021-06-19 15:38:38

found a few of these growing in my yard!

Posted by: Mandi Rossberg - Blackduck
on: 2022-06-22 12:46:07

Just found a bunch growing in our yard a few miles north of Blackduck. Beautiful little flowers!

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