Scarlet Globemallow, Cowboy's Delight

Sphaeralcea coccinea (Nutt.) Rydb.

This plant seems to prefer neglect. The salmon to orange-red flowers appear during the driest summers and in unexpected places—no doubt the reason for another common name, cowboy’s delight. The leaves are palmately lobed and silvery. With a microscope or hand lens, you can admire the beautiful star-shaped hairs that cover the leaves. This plant is difficult to establish, but once done, it will spread along the roots and pop up unexpectedly. And who wouldn’t want an unanticipated splash of scarlet? (Some people don’t, and they may find globemallows difficult to eradicate.) Sphaeralcea munroana (Dougl. ex Lindl.) Spach ex Gray is a larger, almost-shrubby cousin, up to 3’ tall, with less-deeply lobed leaves and equally attractive flowers.


Height: 4-12”
Width: 6-12”, spreading underground to form much larger colonies
Water needs: low
Exposure: full sun
Availability in nurseries: uncommon
Native range: western North America (WY native)
Plant family: Malvaceae

 

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Photo by Dorothy Tuthill