This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
This plant has not been found fossil so far. It is distributed to-day throughout Europe from the Arctic circle, southwards, in N. and W. Asia, to Spitzbergen, the Himalayas, and N. Africa, and has been introduced into the United States. Common Mouse-ear occurs in every county of Great Britain, ascending to 3600 ft. in Scotland.
The Common Mouse-ear is inconspicuous enough, and on account of its similarity to other stitchworts, not so widely known as its distribution should require. It is almost everywhere a plant of the waste places, growing on open ground where the surface has been disturbed, not only in gardens, and around houses, farmyards, and kindred spots where weeds of cultivation accumulate, but in the fields and along the wayside also. It is associated often with the 3-nerved Sandwort and Common Stitchwort, or Chickweed under the hedge, and is a shade plant.
This is a short, straggling plant, with many spreading stems, round and purple. Some of the barren shoots are long. The stem is downy, and often prostrate, then ascending. The leaves are roughly hairy, and oblong below, narrow below; the upper are oval with rolled-back edges.
The flowers are white, the petals as long as the calyx, and both sepals and bracts are membranous at the margin. The capsule is cylindrical, the fruit-stalk as long as the calyx, the sepals of which are turned back in flower, and the primary bracts are not membranous.
Mouse-ear Chickweed is 6 in. or more in height. The flowers are to be seen in June and July. The plant is annual, and propagated by seed.
The flowers are much smaller than in C. arvense (which see), and consequently insect visits are few, and it is not so markedly proteran-drous as C. arvense. The honey is half-concealed. The plant is self-pollinated, pro-ducing seed when no insects visit it. The visitors are Dip-tera, Syrphidae, Syritta pi-piens, Empidae, Empis livida.
This Chickweed is dispersed by the wind. The seeds are blown, when ripe, out of the many-valved capsule by the wind.
The plant is a sand-loving plant, requiring a sand soil or light sandy loam. It is found on many formations which yield an abundant sand.
Chickweed is galled by Cecidomyia cerastii. The insects that feed on it are Lepidoptera, Gelechia mar-morea, Small Yellow Under-wing (He/iodes arbuti), and the Homopteron, Dorthesia urticae.
Cerastium, Linnaeus, from ceras, Greek for horn, is so called from the shape of the seed, and vulgatum alludes to its universality.
Photo. H. Irving - Mouse-ear Chickweed (Cerastium Vulgatum, L.)
This plant is called Chickenweed, Mouse-ear Chickweed, Mouse-ear. Chickweed and this plant were formerly used under the same name, Murion.
This species may be distinguished from C. glomeratum and C. semi-decandrum by being perennial, while the others are annual, with hairs on the stem-leaves, much longer, not terminated by muscular glands. It is much larger and more spreading at right angles.
Essential Specific Characters:52. Cerastium vulgatum, L. - Stem branched, jointed, tufted, leaves lanceolate, downy, dark-green, flowers white, petals not much longer than sepals, pedicels exceeding the latter, bracts with membranous margin, the tips glabrous.
Common or Marsh Mallow (Malva sylvestris, L.)
This has not been found fossil so far. It is found throughout the North Temperate Zone in Europe, N. Africa, Siberia, W. Asia, and is introduced into the United States. In Great Britain, though universal, it is not found in Cardigan, Stirling, Mid Perth, N. Aberdeen, Banff, Westerness, Main Argyle, Cantire, North Ebudes, Sutherland, Caithness, or the Northern Isles. Watson expresses doubt as to its being native in Scotland, where, indeed, it is rare. It is found in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
The Common Mallow forms a conspicuous object by the roadside, in or near villages and small towns, where it may be seen growing luxuriantly, and in profusion along the sward which surrounds a farmyard, or on banks in the village, or on the village green. It is thus a weed of cultivation which has established itself in most parts of the country. In waste places it is associated with Dwarf Mallow, Melilot, Mayweed, Mugwort, Hawk's Beard, Goose Foot, Barley Grass, and many others.
The stem is tall, erect, strong, and woody, branched, with leaves on long leaf-stalks, 3-7-lobed, kidney-shaped at the base, with lobes radiating from a common centre, the lobes shallow, the margin scalloped, smooth above, roughly hairy below.
The flowers are large, purple, axillary, with veins of deeper tint, the petals much longer than the calyx. The flower-stalks are slender, spreading, the fruit (enclosed in an aril) smooth, netted, with short style, and the seeds are numerous and kidney-shaped.
This plant is very often 4 ft. high. The flowers may be gathered from May till October. Common Mallow is a perennial, deciduous, herbaceous plant As with Marsh Mallow, the flowers are proterandrous, the anthers ripening first, large and conspicuous, and visitors are numerous. There are honey-glands at the base of the stamens or petals not fully protected. In the centre of the young flower a group of anthers surround the still unripe stigmas folded together, arranged in a cone-like form. The stigmas afterwards lengthen and project in the place of the stamens, and branch outwards to avoid self-pollination. The anthers after opening also droop. The honey is protected above from rain by hairs, which cause insects to wipe the pollen off on the anthers in young flowers to apply it to the stigma in older flowers.
Before the stigmas are ripe, the ends of the anther-stalks curl outwards and downwards, and this prevents self-pollination. The visitors are Hymenoptera, Apidae, Ichneumonidae; Dip-tera, Stratiomyidae, Syr-phidae; Lepidoptera, Pieris rapae; Coleoptera, Haltica. A bee, Chelistoma nigricorne, is a pollen-seeker.
The fruits are dispersed by the plant's own agency. The capsule is a typical schizocarp, and consists of numerous carpels which break up when ripe, and are dispersed around the plant, the single seeds remaining in the carpels.
This is a sand-loving plant, and subsists on a sand soil, and grows where it is barren and no other plants can compete with it.
A fungus, Puccinia malvacearum, infests it, as it does the Hollyhock. The beetles, Trachys pygmaea, Lixus paraplecticus, Apion malvae, Podagrica funicornis; a moth, Acontia solaris, feed on it.
The name sylvestris refers to its supposed woodland habitat. It is called Bread-and-Cheese, Cheese-cake, Cheese Log, Cheese-flower, Chock-cheese, Chucky-cheese, Custard Cheeses, Dock, Frog-cheese,
Photo. J. H. Crabtree - Common or Marsh Mallow (Malva sylvestris, L.)
Loaves-of-Bread, Marsh Mallow, Maul, Maws, Pancake Plant, Pick Cheese.
The fruits resemble cheeses, hence some of the names. They have an insipid mucilaginous taste, and are eaten by children.
"The sitting down when school was o'er Upon the threshold of the door, Picking from mallows, sport to please, The crumpled seed we call a cheese."
Because children use it like Dock when stung by nettles, it was called Round Dock to cool (and so fancifully cure) the parts affected. As it was employed in fomentations, it was called Marsh Mallow, which is really Mash Mallow. On account of its demulcent properties it was retained in the Materia Medica. It was formerly employed for bladder troubles, calculous concretions, stone, gravel, etc, coughs, and for hoarseness. A mallow is used by the Chinese, when the leaves are dried as food.
Essential Specific Characters:64. Malva sylvestris, L. - Stem tall, woody, branched, leaves palmate, 7-lobed, crenate, flower large, purple, veined, in 3-leaved involucre, carpels reticulate, rugose, fruit-stalk erect.