Over the last 8 years or so, Mallows of all sorts have taken up residence in our garden ... from the fantastically showy Hibiscus moscheutos species, to the common Hollyhocks (Malva sidalcea sp.), Malva sylvestris (Zebrina Mallow) to this plain, yet beautiful specimen we refer to as a wild Prairie Mallow. Though I've not been able to positively identify this particular species, the closest I've come is Sidalcea malviflora, or "Prairie Mallow," which appears to be quite similar to cultivars commonly grown in garden situations. In the link I've provided, the flowers and plants appear quite similar, though ours are much paler in hue than the photos Paghat provides in her post. She does note, however, that plants propagated from seeds often do not exhibit the deep pink of her specimen, which leads me to believe that what we have (in abundance!) has reverted to its more wild form, which is something that we particularly appreciate, given that we try to encourage native wildflowers in our garden and unless they become invasive, we leave them alone.
How we came by these particular Mallows is one of those fortuitous garden events ... perhaps instigated by fairies, or perhaps just by the winds or a passing bird. I think it was back in spring of 1999 that we first saw this plant coming up in the (then much smaller) front bed ... the seedling didn't look like a weed and we at first thought it might be a wild geranium. But as we let it grow and progress through its cycle, we quickly realized that we had some sort of wild Mallow on our hands. It displays the classic Mallow flower structure (five simple petals, distinctive veining, blooms in the pale pink range), and unlike most biennial Mallows (such as Hollyhocks) it appears to be truly perennial, with each parent plant returning the following year. For all intents and purposes, it might as well be classified as a perennial dwarf Hollyhock, due to the form of the flowers and the seed heads that develop later on in the season. We've found that if you're up for the task of deadheading, you can prolong bloom time very late into the season, but at the rate this plant blooms, that's a daunting task to say the least.
Wild Prairie Mallow does self-seed aggressively, so we've had to do some thinning out and passing plants along over the years, but even at its most invasive (which is really not that bad) it's usually a welcome addition to a spot where it happens to thrive. It blooms profusely and assumes a neat, bush-like form at maturity that is quite attractive, whether viewed from afar or up close. And the simplicity of the flowers themselves is somewhat deceptive ... the more you look at them up close, the more you realize that they are perfectly suited for propagating themselves successfully where they have chosen to grow. In short, we pretty much just let these Mallows do what they want, and unless they are crowding out some more highly prized species, we give them a wide berth in the garden. They're a perfect plant to let naturalize in less 'desirable' areas of the garden where you simply might want some color where little else will grow ... they're very tolerant of dry, hot conditions, thriving in blazing sun ... and they have no known pests (short of voracious rabbits who've been nibbling on ours this year!).
Wild Prairie Mallow probably isn't for the fussier gardeners out there due to its propensity to move around in the garden, but for those who like a wilder, more native look to areas in the border, they make a foolproof addition that provides a wealth of colour over the most brutal of hot summer months.