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Home>Plant Species>Native Species>Scarlet globemallow

Drawing of scarlet globemallow Scarlet globemallow
Sphaeralcea coccinea

question markDid you know?

Scarlet globemallow was collected on the Lewis and Clark Expedition!

What is scarlet globemallow?
More than just a hardy perennial forb, scarlet globemallow is memorialized in history as the last plant collected by Meriwether Lewis on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Smithsonian Institute has preserved the original specimen. Before Lewis and Clark’s famed voyage, Native North Americans chewed scarlet globemallow and applied it as a paste to relieve the pain of burns and flesh wounds.

Scarlet globemallow flowersWhat are its characteristics?
This perennial forb, with a stout taproot, grows 3 to 18 inches in height, topped with deep orange or light pink to brick red flowers. Leaves are grayish-green and palmately lobed. Both the leaves and the several erect stems are covered with silver-gray hairs that reflect solar radiation and protect against drying. These hairs, along with its deep root system, make it very drought tolerant. Scarlet globemallow exhibits low seed germination due to a hard seed coat and reproduces mainly by rhizomes. The hard seed coat enables long-term seed viability in the seedbank. Seeds then germinate when conditions are occasionally favorable.

Scarlet globemallow plantWhat’s its value to the Great Basin?
Scarlet globemallow is eaten by almost all species of herbivores where it occurs and can be an important component of wildlife diets. It stabilizes the soil on disturbed areas through creeping rhizomes and proliferates until grasses out-compete it. Deep roots allow it to survive disking, fires, and grazing. When other species are eliminated, scarlet globemallow proliferates.

What is its restoration potential?
Although scarlet globemallow is suppressed when grasses and shrubs begin growing, it will proliferate again once a disturbance occurs. This, along with its drought tolerance and soil stabilizing ability, make it a promising restoration species…though not the ideal. Seeds are hard to collect, making them expensive, and the germination rate is very low.

Images:
-Drawing:USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 2: 519.
-Flower: Intermountain Herbarium.
-Plant image: USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Blair L. Waldron.
-Plant image on click: Intermountain Herbarium.

Text references:
-Harris, Holly t. 1989. Sphaeralcea coccinea. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: (http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/, 26 September 2006).
-USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 26 September 2006). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
-Utah State University, Extension. 2006. Range Plants of Utah website (http://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/index.htm, 26 September 2006).