This plant is the bane of our allotment. None of our more seasoned allotment neighbours ever identified it past 'THAT BLOODY THING!'. I suspected it was some sort of mallow, but all I and anybody else care to know about it is how to fully remove the two foot long, furcated root to stop it coming back month after month. Top tip? I have taken to digging as deep as I can and cutting the root with pruning shears followed by (repeatedly) pulling out the resulting weak stemmed plant that pops up a few weeks later. I hope that the root will eventually run out of juice and wither away.
I finally identified this plant having bought a gardening weekly
with a free packet of Malva sylvestris 'Merlin' seeds. I have developed the habit of running any plant I cultivate or that piques my interest through the Plants for a Future Database. This is an
excellent way to assess usefulness, adaptations and most importantly to
me, omnomableness. In this case the pictures allowed me to identify the 'mallow' on my allotment - I didn't realize
the very pretty flower that I planned to sow was a more ornamental variety of the very same weed that
has been the bane of my life for two years.
The common mallow, according to PFAF, is used to treat coughs and respiratory
infections. I wish I had known that before I worsened my thick,
irritating cough trying to dig this very plant out on a cold, damp day
last week. It is also edible and can be used to thicken soups and stews. I did try a tea made from a handful of steeped leaves. An hour or so later, for about two hours, my cough did indeed loosen up, not unlike the effect of taking an expectorant cough medicine. Placebo or otherwise I do not mind. I can also vouch for the fact that this plant does indeed taste like young spinach leaves and I wish I had at least harvested the tops of the plants that I pulled out.
My cough remains and my experiment is cut short, unfortunately, but I have learnt something new. My interest in the medicinal properties of plants is growing again and perhaps this is something I will look into further over the coming year. I also suspect that it is a plant I will forage for as opposed to intentionally cultivate. Perhaps my pretty Malva sylvestris seeds will find their way onto an abandoned plot somewhere in the city, ready for future use.