A perennial herb that grows to 5′ tall with downy light-green silver leaves and pink flowers that bloom from June to September. Despite its name, Marshmallow does not need to be grown in a marsh. It can be cultivated in almost any garden and is good in almost any soil type and can tolerate dry conditions. It will tolerate moist soil conditions and damp areas but does not like a fully waterlogged soil. It does prefer to have regular watering especially if planted on well-drained sandy soils. It is not drought tolerant. Needs full sun and grows to 5 feet with downy light green silver leaves and pale pink flowers that bloom from June until September. The texture of the leaves makes it unpalatable to deer. In spring it sends up many unbranched stems that are a little velvety due to fine hairs. Flowers in late-summer through early fall. The flowers and young leaves can be eaten, and are often added to salads or are boiled and fried.
Theophrastus (c. 372-286 BCE) reported that the root was used in sweet wine to treat coughs.
The plant’s sweet, mucilaginous properties were once used to make a type of candy of the same name. The modern marshmallow derives its name from this early sweet, despite no longer containing any of the plant.
It is one of 95 genera in the Malvaceae family, of which all contain a healing mucilage.
Its genus name is derived from the Greek althe, which means “to cure.”
Marshmallow was eaten by the Egyptians and Syrians and mentioned by Pythagoras, Plato, and Virgil.
The ancient Romans used it in barley soup, considering it a delicacy. The plant is credited with sustaining some populations during famines.
It has long been used as a laxative.
Its common names relating to cheese came as a result of the appearance of the seeds. They are a light brown, disc-shaped, and slotted upright in a ring known as “cheese.”