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   The four Sphaeralceas (Globe Mallows) shown on this page enjoy hot and dry conditions.  Sphaeralcea coccinea and Sphaeralcea parvifolia often spread over large areas putting on a very eye-catching wildflower show.  Click to see one such show along the Colorado River.

     "Sphaer" is Greek for "a sphere or globe" and "alcea" is Greek for "a mallow" and is the scientific name of the present day garden Hollyhock.

Sphaeralcea coccine

Sphaeralcea coccinea

Sphaeralcea coccinea

Sphaeralcea coccinea

 

 

 

 

 

Sphaeralcea coccinea (Scarlet Globe Mallow)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Disturbed areas, woodlands, openings. Spring, summer.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 20, 2013;
Near Yellowjacket Canyon, June 11, 2005 and
May 29, 2004.

Sphaeralcea coccinea is a very common plant of the low foothills and semi-desert regions.  It loves sandy, dry, open ground and occurs as scattered, taller, multiple-stemmed plants ( as shown in the top photographs at left) or it forms colonies of usually shorter, single-stemmed plants from its spreading roots (as shown in the second photograph at left and on the second page of S. coccinea photographs). 

Plants range from four to sixteen inches tall and from a distance the taller plants look very much like S. parvifolia or S. grossulariifolia.

Leaves of S. coccinea are relatively round in outline, and they are typically cut in 3-5 main divisions which are also cut into several divisions. Leaves appear a silver green because they are covered with fine, white stellate hairs. Be sure to take a look at the leaves with a hand lens.

Click for more photographs of Sphaeralcea coccinea.

Thomas Nuttall, famed 18th century botanist and Harvard instructor, collected this species "From the River Platte to the Rocky Mountains" in 1811 and named the plant Malva coccinea.  Per Axel Rydberg renamed it Sphaeralcea coccinea in 1913.

"Coccin" is Latin for "scarlet".

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia (Large Leaf Globe Mallow)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)
 

Semi-desert, foothills. Sand and rock areas, openings. Spring.
Lower Butler Wash, Utah, April 20, 2017 and
East of Bluff, Utah, April 21, 2017.

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia and Sphaeralcea coccinea are, especially from a distance, very similar looking. Utah flora expert, Stanley Welsh states, "some specimens [of S. coccinea) approach if not pass into S. grossulariifolia...."  Both can grow to nearly two feet tall with a number of stems spread in an airy bouquet; leaves are very similar; and the two species commonly grow in similar habitats. A closer examination shows similarities in hairiness and various plant measurements, but when one looks at the inflorescence, the difference is apparent: the flowers of S. coccinea are in a raceme, i.e., they are single and attached to the main stem by a short petiole. The flowers of S. grossulariifolia are in a branched raceme, i.e., several flowers occur together.

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia was not discovered in Colorado until about 2004 and it is known from just a few locations there.  It is, as the map below indicates, wide-spread in the other Four Corners states.

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia was named Sida grossulariaefolia by William Jackson Hooker and George Arnot in 1838 from a collection made by members of the Hudson Bay Company in Idaho in 1837.  Per Axel Rydberg gave the present name in 1913

The specific epithet, "grossulariifolia" refers to some perceived resemblance of the foliage of this plant to that of some member(s) of the genus Grossularia (now Ribes) in the Gooseberry Family, scientifically called Grossulariaceae.  The family and genus were named by Augustin de Candolle in the early 1800s, sometime prior to the 1838 naming of this species.

Click for more Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia photographs.

Sphaeralcea leptophylla
Sphaeralcea leptophylla (Narrow Leaf Globe Mallow)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy areas, woodlands, openings. Spring, summer.
Lower Butler Wash, May 3, 2007.

This lovely Mallow is easily distinguished from the others shown on this page by its linear ( narrow with parallel sides) leaves.  It enjoys loose, sandy soils in all the Four Corners states and grows from eight to twenty-five inches tall with many flowers covering many stems.  Stems and leaves have a gray-green cast.  Notice a number of straw-colored stems from last year's growth.

Charles Wright first collected this species in 1851 and Asa Gray named it Malvastrum leptophyllum.  It was renamed Sphaeralcea leptophylla in 1913 by Per Axel Rydberg.  The Greek "lepto" + "phylla" means "fine-leaved".

Sphaeralcea leptophylla
Sphaeralcea leptophylla (Narrow Leaf Globe Mallow)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy areas, woodlands, openings. Spring, summer.
Lower Butler Wash, May 3, 2007.

Sphaeralcea parvifolia

Sphaeralcea parvifolia (Triangular Leaf Globe Mallow)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring, summer.
Hunter Canyon Trail, Utah, May 2, 2005.

Sphaeralcea parvifolia also loves the hot and dry and can put on massive displays of flowers in Canyon Country.  In 2004, and even more so in 2005, hundreds of thousands of plants bloomed profusely for weeks in the Four Corners states.  (Click to see S. parvifolia putting on a show along the Colorado River and to see an enlargement of the photograph at left.)

In contrast to S. coccinea, S. parvifolia has wavy-edged, broadly triangular, lobed leaves;

long flower stalks; and can grow, as shown in the photograph at the left, to over three feet tall and four feet wide in almost a shrub structure.  "Parvifolia" is Latin for "small leaved".

Sphaeralcea parvifolia

Sphaeralcea parvifolia

Sphaeralcea parvifolia (Triangular Leaf Globe Mallow)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring, summer.
Cedar Mesa, Utah, June 11, 2004.
Corona Trail, Utah, June 7, 2007.

Symmetry of flowers is replaced by symmetry of seed pods.

Aven Nelson named this species in 1904 from a specimen collected by Leslie Goodding in Nevada in 1902.  

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Sphaeralcea coccinea  

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia

Range map for Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia

Range map for Sphaeralcea leptophylla

Range map for Sphaeralcea parvifolia