An annual or biennial herb occurring in mostly open habitats near the sea, including bulb fields, old quarries, roadsides and disturbed ground. Lowland.
L. cretica was introduced to cultivation in Britain in 1723. It has apparently increased in frequency in Guernsey in the 20th century. In the Isles of Scilly its range has not changed markedly since its discovery in 1873, and its population appears to be relatively stable at present. It occurs only sporadically in W. Cornwall. Some authorities regard L. cretica as a native in the Channel Islands and S.W. England, but it is treated here as an introduction.
L. cretica has a Mediterranean-Atlantic distribution.
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 31
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 1
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 10
Atlas Change Index: 0.15
RDB Species Accounts
Lavatera cretica L. (Malvaceae)
Cretan mallow, Môr-Hocysen Fychan
Status in Britain: VULNERABLE.
Status in Europe: Not threatened.
In Britain, L. cretica is regularly recorded only from the Isles of Scilly. It occurs mainly in open habitats including bulb fields, roadsides, old quarries and disturbed ground. Among its common associates in the Isles of Scilly are Allium triquetrum, Chrysanthemum segetum, Erodium moschatum, Gladiolus byzantinus, Montia perfoliata, Oxalis pes-caprea and Silene gallica. It grows with Fumaria occidentalis in at least one site.
In Scilly, this annual species most commonly germinates in autumn and winter, with flowering beginning in April and the plants dying off in late June or early July (Lousley 1971). However, germination may take place at other times, and the occasional flowering plant can be seen at almost any time of year. In the shelter of walls or hedges the plants can grow to over a metre tall, but in cultivated fields the plants usually get sprayed with herbicide or ploughed up before they have a chance to grow tall and set seed.
Since its discovery, this species has been found on only three of the inhabited islands in the Isles of Scilly: Tresco, St. Mary's and St. Agnes (with one record in 1989 on St. Martin's but not since), and has not spread to the other islands. Its range has not changed markedly over the past hundred years, except for a slight spread on St. Mary's, though the plant has undergone severe fluctuations in abundance (Lousley 1971). At present, populations in the Isles of Scilly appear to be relatively stable. It occurs only sporadically on the Cornish mainland, with recent records from the Helford river (Margetts & David 1981) and between Penzance and Marazion (Margetts & Spurgin 1991). The population in Tenby is thought to have originated from introduced plants, and it has persisted there since about 1941 (Jones 1992). Some authorities (e.g. Stace 1991) regard L. cretica as native in the Isles of Scilly and perhaps in West Cornwall, whilst others (e.g. Webb 1985) consider it to be an introduction in Britain.
At one time in the Isles of Scilly, the plant seemed likely to be lost from many of its cultivated habitats. It suffered from the widespread use of herbicides intended to eliminate arable weeds from the cultivated crop. Lately plants have recolonised from remnant populations in hedges and field margins and the species is now common again in some of the old localities. However, L. cretica remains vulnerable, as it does not seem to have increased its range, despite apparently suitable habitat, and in many situations it is mistaken for the common Malva sylvestris, a rather more showy plant considered a pest by farmers.
L. cretica is predominantly a plant of southern Europe, extending eastwards from the Azores across the Mediterranean region to Turkey and the Near East. It also extends northwards along the west and north coasts of France to the Channel Islands.
R. E. Parslow
PLANTATT - Attributes of British and Irish plants. (.zip 1455KB) This dataset was compiled and published in 2004, and last updated in November 2008. Download includes an Excel spreadsheet of the attributes, and a PDF explaining the background and nomenclature. Note that the PDF version is the booklet as published, whereas the Excel spreadsheet incorporates subsequent corrections. A hardcopy can be purchased from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.