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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Little mallow (cheeseweed)  (Malva parviflora)

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Life stages of Little mallow (cheeseweed) fruit seedling root flowers mature plants

Little mallow (cheeseweed) is a winter annual broadleaf plant and occasionally a biennial or short-lived perennial plant. It is found throughout California, except possibly in the Great Basin, to about 4900 feet (1500 m). Little mallow inhabits agricultural lands and disturbed sites. Under certain conditions, little mallow accumulates nitrates to concentrations toxic to cattle. Poultry that consume mallow leaves or seeds can produce lower quality eggs.


Orchards, vineyards, agronomic and vegetable crop fields, gardens, urban sites, roadsides and other disturbed, unmanaged sites.


Cotyledons (seed leaves) are distinctly heart shaped, hairless, and have long stalks. They are about 1/8 to 1/2 of an inch (3–12 mm) long and 1/8 to 1/3 of an inch (3–8 mm) wide. Stalks usually have some simple and/or star-shaped hairs. The first leaf is almost round and usually a little larger than the cotyledons. True leaves are usually weakly lobed, more-or-less round with wavy, shallow-toothed edges, and have a red spot at the leaf base. Leaves are alternate to one another along the stem. The seedling rapidly develops a strong taproot, making the plant difficult to remove even at young stages.

Mature plant

Stems are tough and woody and grow mostly erect, and can reach over 2-3/5 feet (80 cm) in length. Leaves are hairy, somewhat palm shaped, with five to seven shallow lobes. These lobes are rounded to angled and their edges are round toothed and vary in hairiness. Leaves are alternate to one another along the stem.


Flowers bloom nearly year-round. They are small, white to pale pink, and about 2/5 of an inch (1 cm) in diameter.  Flower clusters are found at the bases of leaf stalks.


The fruiting head resembles a miniature wheel of cheese with wedge-shaped sections. Each section contains one seed.


Seeds have a rounded kidney shape, reddish brown, and are roughly 1/12 of an inch (2.0 mm) long.


Reproduces by seed.

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