Description from Flora of China
Herbs annual or perennial, ascending or erect. Leaves alternate; stipule sessile, usually ciliate, persistent; leaf blade palmately lobed or sometimes deeply dissected. Flowers solitary or fascicled, axillary. Involucellar bracts usually 3, linear or foliaceous, usually free. Calyx cup-shaped, 5-lobed, often accrescent and spreading in fruit. Petals 5, usually purple, sometimes white, rose to dark red, apex usually emarginate or with a prominent notch. Anthers borne on staminal column apex. Ovary with 9-15 pistils; ovule 1 per locule, erect; style branches as many as pistils, adaxial surface stigmatic. Fruit a schizocarp, oblate, pubescent or glabrous; mericarps 9-15, indehiscent, mature carpels without spines. Seeds 1 per mericarp.
Molecular data (Ray, Pl. Syst. Evol. 198: 29-53. 1995) indicate that a number of species, especially American and Australian, traditionally thought to belong to Lavatera are better considered species of Malva. Previously, the two genera were separated on the basis of the fusion or non-fusion of the epicalyx lobes, but this is an arbitary division and, given current molecular evidence, untenable. The two genera are better separated on mericarp details.
Members of this genus are used as ornamental and medicinal plants; the young leaves are used as vegetables. Many species grow in disturbed situations.
Malva dendromorpha M. F. Ray (Lavatera arborea Linnaeus) is known in China only from botanical gardens.
About 30 species: N Africa, Asia, Europe; three species (one introduced) in China.