Contributed by Ginny Oakes

On March 27, 2018

Light and graceful

Althaea cannabina dances onto our list at Number 27.  The name derives from the Greek, althaia, a cure or something that heals, referring to the use of some species in medicine, and cannabina, like Cannabis or hemp, referring to the similarity in the shape of the leaves. I trust that this is the only connection between the two otherwise our garden visits might become rather interesting! It also has the common name of hemp-leaved hollyhock or palm-leaved marsh mallow and is native to central, southern and eastern Europe,

Graham Stuart Thomas describes it beautifully, “It is seldom that this tall wiry plant needs staking. The stems are lightly clad in lobed leaves. The flowers, small, cupped, rosy lavender with dark eyes, project from the leaf axils on long stalks. The whole plant is light and graceful.” Derry Watkins tells us that it is a sight to behold in October.


Althaea cannabina by Hectonichus  is licensed under CC BY-SA  3.0

It has been grown in our gardens for some considerable time. Gerard mentions it in his Herbal of 1597, “it bringeth forth in my garden many twiggy branches, set upon stiffe stalkes of the bignesse of a mans thumbe, growing to the height of ten or twelve foot: whereupon are set very many leaves deepely cut even to the middle rib, like unto the leaves of hempe: the floures and seeds are like unto the common mallow: the root is exceeding great, thicke, and of a wooddy substance.”

It needs a sunny position in a well-drained soil, something similar to its native land.


1 Comment

  1. Barbara Badham

    So pleased this plant has made it into the top thirty. A lovely carefree plant,no pests or diseases appear to affect it and unusually for a tall plant no staking required.
    It flowers for months and I am still enjoying the architectural stems against a winter sky.
    Thanks for the history Ginny, amazing that it has been in cultivation since the 1500’s

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