Malva rotundifolia, Dwarf Mallow by Sowerby, 1809
Malva rotundifolia, Dwarf Mallow by James Sowerby, 1809
The genus Malva has approximately twenty-five to thirty species of herbaceous plants. They can be annual, biennials or perennials and they grow in the temperate, subtropical and tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Europe. Some species are considered to be garden flowers, while others are viewed as intrusive weeds. The leaves alternate and the flower is composed of five pink or white petals. The color mauve was named after the French name of the plant in 1859. It is one of the earliest mentioned plants in recorded literature. Malva rotundifolia can be eaten and the seeds are high in protein, though it is considered to be a weed.
James Sowerby (1757-1822) was an English naturalist and illustrator. He studied at the Royal Academy and was apprenticed to Richard Wright. He provided the illustrations for William Curtis' Flora Londinensis. In 1790 he embarked on his first of several large scale publication projects, English Botany. His large corpus of works appeared in a variety of publications and journals. Some of his multi-volumed projects were so large they had to be finished by later generations of his family.
English Botany was a major publication of British plants. It totaled thirty-six volumes over twenty-three years, beginning in 1790 and finished in 1813. There were two thousand five hundred ninety-two hand-colored engravings by Sowerby. In 1788 Sir James Edward Smith (1759-1828), founder of the Linnean Society, provided the textual descriptions that accompanied the plates. Since his name was absent from the title of the first four volumes it lead to a belief that Sowerby wrote it. The omission, which had been a request by Smith to remain anonymous, was later corrected. But the name "Sowerby's Botany" is often still applied to the work.
- Naomi Bean