Apricot Mallow

Apricot mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) prefers an alkaline habitat. This perennial native is found in dry rocky or sandy soils in the Mojave, Great Basin and Sonoran Deserts (CA, AZ, NV, UT).

A shrub, sometimes called a wildflower, apricot mallow has long stems and can grow up to 3′ in height and 2′ to 3′ in width. The number of stems in a plant increases with age.

Apricot mallow leaves are lobed and variable in shape. The leaves are covered on both surfaces with star-like hairs that give the foliage a greyish appearance. Local lore asserts that the hairs are irritating to the eyes. Thus one of the common names for apricot mallow is sore-eye poppy.

The apricot mallow flowers grow along the upper portion of the stems, usually in leaf axils, and bloom in the spring. The petals are apricot to orange in color.

Spherical at first, the fruits are filled with seeds and flatten over time. The generic name, Sphaeralcea, is of Greek derivation. “Spaera” means globelike and refers to the round fruits. “Alcea” means mallow. These plants are also colloquially called globemallows and desert mallow.

Bees and other insects are attracted to apricot mallow nectar and pollen.

This specimen was photographed in the Madera Canyon area of the Coronado National Forest near Tucson AZ.


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