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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".

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

Semi-desert, foothills. Disturbed areas, woodlands, openings. Spring, summer.
Near Yellowjacket Canyon, June 11, 2005.

Sphaeralcea coccinea is a very common and variable plant of the low foothills and semi-desert regions.  It loves sandy, dry, open ground and often forms large colonies from its spreading roots.  Leaves are cut in many divisions and appear a silver green because the green leaf is covered with fine, white hairs.  Plants range from four inches to sixteen inches tall with the larger plants looking, from a distance, very much like S. parvifolia or S. grossulariifolia.  In most of southwestern Colorado, the plants are four to eight inches tall, in colonies, and with finely dissected leaves (as shown at left in this and in this typical spring display.

"Coccin" is Latin for "scarlet".

Thomas Nuttall, famed 18th century botanist and Professor of Botany at Harvard, 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.

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

Semi-desert, foothills. Disturbed areas, woodlands, openings. Spring, summer.
Near Yellow Jacket Canyon, May 29, 2004.

Sphaeralcea grossularifolia
Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia (Globe Mallow)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)
 

Semi-desert, foothills. Sand and rock areas, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 23, 2011.

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia typically grows 12-24 inches tall but may be over 30 inches.  Flowers are in tight bunches, leaves are deeply cut, and the plant is quite hairy.

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.

Sphaeralcea grossularifolia

Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia (Globe Mallow)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)
 

Semi-desert, foothills. Sand and rock areas, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 23, 2011.

The plants shown here may actually be quite tall versions of S. coccinea.  The two species are very similar, supposedly distinguished by the arrangement of the flowers: S. coccinea flowers are in a raceme, i.e., single and stalked from the main stem.  S. grossulariifolia flowers are in a compact thyrse (in a branching, compact structure), and in Utah flora expert, Stanley Welsh's words, "with usually more than one flower per node".  Note the word "usually" and also that Welsh states, "some specimens [of S. coccinea) approach if not pass into S. grossulariifolia...."

Throughout the Four Corners area, the two species have distinctly different growth forms: S. grossulariifolia grows to several feet tall in individual plants; S. coccinea grows to less than a foot tall and spreads by underground roots so that there are almost always dozens of plants in a small area.

Click for more Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia photographs.

Sphaeralcea leptophylla
Sphaeralcea leptophylla (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 other two shown on this page by its linear (long, narrow) 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 (Globe Mallow)
Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

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

Sphaeralcea parvifolia (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.)

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

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

Sphaeralcea parvifolia

Sphaeralcea parvifolia

Sphaeralcea parvifolia (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 (1880-1967) 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

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