Mallows and Limes in the Malvaceae family- Part 1

Malva sylvestris or Common Mallow growing as a pretty weed (by Mike Poulton)

I was inspired to write up about the Mallows this week as I have many seedlings of the Common Mallow below a large mother plant on my allotment and I noticed that my opposite neighbour also had some. When I spoke to her she was just about to dig some large specimen up and told me she had several all over her allotment too. So this lovely, innocent looking plant can be a little invasive!

The Malvaceae includes the easy recognisable, pink flowered Mallows as well as our Lime trees. This seems very unlikely as they do not resemble each other in the slightest and therefore they have often been separated into the Tiliaceae as for example in the Wild Flower Key by F. Rose. However according to Stace the molecular evidence shows that genus Tilia should be united in the Mallow family. As there are too many Mallows to write about I will cover the Limes in a next post!

Most information is again from various websites or books and floras for which are provided links throughout the text for some more information. If you are very interested in this family it is worth getting the Mallow notebook through the fabulous Eatweeds.co.uk. It has a lot more descriptions about the individual Mallows as well as good pictures for identification.

Now first some more scientific stuff:

Plumbaginaceae; the Thrift or Sea Lavender Family

The Plumbaginaceae is an attractive family with ca 30 genera world wide although on the British Isles we only got 2 genera: Armeria and Limonium.

Armeria in wintertime is an attractive site!

We start with Armeria maritima or Thrift which is the only native species growing along our coasts. It is a common sight in British salt marshes too, where it flowers April to October.

Armeria maritima has a great copper-tolerance, and is able to grow in soils with copper concentrations of up to 6400 mg/kg. One mechanism proposed is that not much copper is transported up the shoot of the plant, and is excreted from decaying leaves.

All pictures by Matt Summers.

Viburnum, Moschatel and Dwarf Elder: more members of the Adoxaceae

The last 2 posts were about the native members of the Caprifoliaceae and members which had moved into the Adoxacea in the last edition of Stace. This post will talk about all the plants I missed out on.

The Adoxaceae is a small family consisting of five genera and about 150–200 species.

In older classifications, this entire family was part of Caprifoliaceae, the honeysuckle family.  Adoxa (moschatel) was the first plant to be moved to this new group. Much later, the genera Sambucus (Elders) and Viburnum were added after careful morphological analysis and biochemical tests by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group.

The Elder and other members of the Adoxaceae family Part 1

Sambucus nigra or Common Elder is a hugely useful plant and therefore cannot be called a weed at all!

It used to be a member of the Caprifoliaceae but now it belongs in the Adoxacea together with Viburnum and Adoxa with the most modern thinking in Plant Taxonomy.

I had done a post back in 2018, which was all about the virtues of our Common Elder.

As there is a lot of information available about this plant on various websites I will just list most of the uses in a very edited form and you can find links to the various websites available. I like to specially mention the Eatweeds website by Robin Harford giving much interesting information about Elder and many other so called weeds!

All pictures and poem by my partner Matt Summers.

Honeysuckle, Elders, and other (former) genera from the Caprifoliaceae family

I was just reminded that The Elder does not belong into the Caprifoliaceae family any longer but is now in the Adoxaceae family together with genus Viburnum which also used to be in the Caprifoliaceae!

Adoxacea is now family number 137 and Caprifoliaceae follows with number 138 in Stace.

But the Lonicera or Honeysuckle remains in the Caprifoliaceae or Honeysuckle family.

So this post is now going to be shorter than anticipated and I will just talk about our useful native members as well as a few ‘weedy’ non natives. Info with thanks from various websites given in the links.

The Other Useful Umbellifers

The Wild Carrot is easily recognisable as a typical Umbellifer!

Last week the Ground-elder was fully covered in my blog for all its useful attributes and this week I hope to tackle all the remaining ones in the last family of all the Dicot families in Stace.

It is a large family with 50 genera although many genera have just the one native species and only a few having a small number of different species. 

This post is again ‘colour coded’ for hopefully ease of reading! White and blue background for general information. Mostly this time there is a green background for edible and other uses. Pink background is when there is a warning for poisonous, which can also sometimes mean medicinal!

Several of our root vegetables and herbs belong to this family, although these are cultivated varieties, not always native (NN in list below) to the British Isles. I would as an exception like to talk about those towards the end of this post as they are fascinating to me and hopefully to you too. You can also follow the links below their names to find out more about their edibility (often as flavouring or herb) and medicinal uses. I’ve used Wikipedia a lot again as they have such valuable information about the individual species about their uses.

Ground-elder as an introduction to the Apiaceae family

Illustration from Otto Wilhelm Thomé‘sFlora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz (1885) (Wikipedia)

Noticed recently that one of the most menacing ‘weeds’ in this family I have done as a post earlier was lost on my site so will have to do this again!

The other improved posts on the Apiaceae or Umbels parts can be found in the following edition tomorrow!

and here for part 2:

Ground-elder is mentioned by the RHS as a big menace in the garden and therefore an excellent reason for me to do this post!

Rosebay willowherb and other natives of the Willowherb or Onagraceae family

Rosebay willowherb and Hogweed make a surprisingly attractive display at the Dingle, Walsall

The RHS have mentioned the Rosebay willowherb to be a weed which is therefore a good reason for me to write about this plant as well as some others in the same family.

It is in the Willowherb family or Onagraceae which is number 68 in Stace, just after the Geraniaceae or Crane’s-bill (66) and the Lythraceae or Purple-loosestrife (67).

Please Note: This is an educational blog only and can’t be responsible for self medication!

Find out more about this interesting plant family on the next page:

The Plantain family

This week a relative small family in our regions; the Plantaginaceae or the Plantains.

Greater Plantain or Plantago major is probably our best known species in this family

The Plantaginaceae is now in the 121st family in the latest 4th edition of Stace, behind the colourful Veronicaceae (Speedwell family) and before the obscure Hippuridaceae (Mare’s-tail family). It consist of just two genera, Plantago with 7 species and Littorella with just one species.

Each species is a much more humble plant, not really shouting out for attention as some of our plant families covered in earlier blogs.

The generic name Plantago is derived from the Latin for sole and it should not be confused with the other unrelated plantain which is a starchy banana.

In my eyes it is an attractive genus with boldness in its various leaf outlines and interesting flower spikes.

Find out about all their uses to us people and our wildlife on the next page.

The herbaceous members of the Rose Family

In my last post we covered all the more woody plants of this large family, which are most important to us for mainly their fruits. This week I like to talk about their much smaller members, which also have an important part to play for especially our wildlife but also surprisingly in our medical history or present day use.

There are again several genera represented in the British Isles of the smaller, herbaceous and occasionally sub-shrubs of the Rose family. See for more on the next page.