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FNA | Family List | FNA Vol. 6 | Malvaceae

48. Sphaeralcea A. St.-Hilaire in A. St.-Hilaire et al., Fl. Bras. Merid. 1(fol.): 163. 1825.

Globemallow [Greek sphaera, sphere, and alkea, mallow, alluding to arrangement of mericarps in a spherical head] Globemallow [Greek sphaera, sphere, and alkea, mallow, alluding to arrangement of mericarps in a spherical head]

John La Duke

Herbs, annual or perennial. Stems erect or decumbent to ascending, stellate-canescent to stellate-silvery-lepidote, rarely glabrous. Leaves petiolate or sessile; stipules persistent or deciduous, linear; blade linear, lanceolate, orbiculate, or ovate to triangular, trullate, or cordate, unlobed or pedately dissected, base tapered, cuneate, or truncate to cordate, margins entire or crenate to serrate. Inflorescences terminal, racemes or panicles, or flowers sometimes fascicled or in axillary cymose racemes; involucel absent or present, involucellar bractlets inflated, cylindric, ovoid, flattened-spheric, flattened-spheric-conic, hemispheric, widely conic, truncate-conic, spheric, truncate-ovoid, ellipsoid, short-urceolate, helmet-shaped, or truncate-spheric, indurate, hairy; mericarps [7–]9–30, drying tan to brown, 1- or 2-celled, without dorsal spur, distally extended or not, usually smooth, apex cuspidate, truncate, or acute, with or without seeds, proximally usually rugose-reticulate and indehiscent, distally ± dehiscent, often remaining attached to fruit axis after maturity by threadlike extension of dorsal vein. Seeds 1 or 2(or 3) per mericarp, glabrous or slightly pubescent. x = 5.

Species ca. 50 (26 in the flora): w, c North America, Mexico, South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay).

Sphaeralcea is often collected and somewhat difficult to identify. The species boundaries are not always sharp because there is frequent hybridization, polyploidy, and morphological variation in response to environmental conditions, particularly rainfall. Plants growing in Arizona are particularly difficult to identify.

SELECTED REFERENCE Kearney, T. H. 1935. The North American species of Sphaeralcea subgenus Eusphaeralcea. Univ. Calif. Publ. Bot. 19: 1–128.

1 Plants annual, biennial, or perennial; mericarps: dehiscent part 10–75% of height, indehiscent part ± equaling to usually wider than dehiscent part   (2)
+ Plants perennial; mericarps: dehiscent part 50–85% of height, indehiscent part usually not notably wider than dehiscent part   (9)
2 (1) Leaf blade surfaces silvery stellate-lepidote.   15 Sphaeralcea leptophylla
+ Leaf blade surfaces stellate-pubescent or stellate-canescent   (3)
3 (2) Plants annual; mericarps 1.5–2 mm; leaf blades gray-green pubescent, unlobed or 3–5-lobed.   5 Sphaeralcea coulteri
+ Plants usually perennial, sometimes annual or biennial; mericarps 2–5.5 mm; leaf blades green, pale green, yellow, yellow-green, or gray, light gray, or gray-green pubescent, unlobed, or if green or gray to green pubescent, leaves unlobed, 3–5-lobed, or pedately divided   (4)
4 (3) Leaf blades trullate or triangular, not deeply divided.   19 Sphaeralcea orcuttii
+ Leaf blades ovate, cordate-ovate, triangular, deltate, spatulate, or cordate, pedately divided or 3–5-lobed.    
5 Stems (1.5–)3–10 dm.    
+ Stems 1–3(–5) dm   (7)
6 Sepals 5–13 mm; petals 15–20(–25) mm   10 Sphaeralcea gierischii
+ Sepals 4.5–8.5 mm; petals 8–15 mm   17 Sphaeralcea moorei
7 (5) Leaf blades pedately divided, lobes relatively narrow   21 Sphaeralcea pedatifida
+ Leaf blades usually 3–5-lobed, sometimes pedately divided with relatively broad lobes   (8)
8 (7) Leaf blades 3–5-lobed or pedately divided, green to gray-green, stellate-canescent; bractlets deciduous.   4 Sphaeralcea coccinea
+ Leaf blades 3–5-lobed, yellow-green, sparsely stellate-canescent, bractlets persistent.   24 Sphaeralcea psoraloides
9 (1) Inflorescences usually racemose, sometimes paniculate   (10)
+ Inflorescences paniculate   (15)
10 (9) Leaf blades 3-lobed to pedately divided; inflorescences racemose.   6 Sphaeralcea digitata
+ Leaf blades unlobed, 3-lobed, or pedately divided; inflorescences racemose or paniculate   (11)
11 (10) Stems decumbent; leaf blades abaxially white to silvery, adaxially green; coastal Texas.   16 Sphaeralcea lindheimeri
+ Stems usually ascending to erect, sometimes decumbent; leaf blades green, yellow-green, or gray-green; w Texas and sw United States   (12)
12 (11) Leaf blades ovate to deltate, unlobed or 3-lobed   (13)
+ Leaf blades oblong-ovate to ovate-lanceolate and unlobed, or widely ovate or triangular to orbiculate and pedately divided   (14)
13 (12) Stems 5–10 dm; widely distributed.   1 Sphaeralcea ambigua (in part)
+ Stems 2–2.5 dm; restricted to Beaver and Millard counties, Utah, or Nye County, Nevada.   3 Sphaeralcea caespitosa
14 (12) Leaf blades unlobed; sepals forming beak in bud.   12 Sphaeralcea hastulata (in part)
+ Leaf blades usually pedately divided (all but proximalmost); sepals not forming beak in bud.   26 Sphaeralcea wrightii
15 (9) Inflorescences open   (16)
+ Inflorescences crowded, at least distally.    
16 (15) Leaf blades unlobed or weakly 3-lobed; stems yellow- to yellow-green canescent or gray- to white-canescent; anthers yellow, gray, or purple; petals red-orange, apricot, lavender, pink, or white.   1 Sphaeralcea ambigua (in part)
+ Leaf blades 3-lobed or 3- or 5-parted; stems gray- to white-tomentose; anthers usually purple; petals red-orange.   14 Sphaeralcea laxa
17 Leaf blades linear to lanceolate or broadly trullate, unlobed to hastately lobed to angulate; inflorescences usually with leaves throughout.   2 Sphaeralcea angustifolia
+ Leaf blades deltate, elongate-deltate, oblong-ovate, ovate-lanceolate, subhastate, lanceolate, ovate-triangular, ovate, triangular, or cordate, if lobed, with or without elongate central lobe, or pedately divided; inflorescences usually without leaves throughout, sometimes blades pedately divided and inflorescences leafy to tip.    
18 Leaf blades unlobed, elongate-deltate, oblong-ovate, ovate-lanceolate, lanceolate, triangular, ovate, or deltate, or weakly 3–5-lobed   (19)
+ Leaf blades usually strongly 3–5-lobed or pedately divided.   (22)
19 (18) Stems yellow to yellow-green, rubbery; leaf blades deltate or elongate-deltate, sometimes lobed, center lobe sometimes elongate, lobes relatively broad; sepal tips not forming beak in bud.   13 Sphaeralcea incana
+ Stems green, gray-green, or white, not rubbery; leaf blades rounded, ovate, oblong-ovate, ovate-lanceolate, lanceolate, triangular, unlobed or lobed; sepal tips sometimes forming beak in bud.    
20 Leaf blades oblong-ovate to ovate-lanceolate; stems 1–3(–5) dm; sepal tips forming beak in bud.   12 Sphaeralcea hastulata (in part)
+ Leaf blades ovate to triangular, unlobed or weakly lobed; stems 1.5–10 dm; sepal tips not forming beak in bud   (21)
21 (20) Stems green to gray-green canescent; leaf margins coarsely toothed; primarily Nevada, Utah, and north.   18 Sphaeralcea munroana
+ Stems white- to yellow-canescent; leaf margins entire or crenate to serrate; primarily Nevada, Utah, and south.   20 Sphaeralcea parvifolia
22 (18) Leaf blades 3(–5)-lobed; stems (2–)4–30 dm   (23)
+ Leaf blades usually deeply lobed or pedately divided, sometimes highly dissected; stems 1–10 dm   (26)
23 (22) Stems (2–)4–7(–10) dm, usually sparsely canescent or hirsute; petals red-orange.   8 Sphaeralcea fendleri (in part)
+ Stems 10–30 dm, glabrous or hairy; petals red-orange, red, pink, white, lavender, purple, or rose-purple   (24)
24 (23) Leaf blades ovate-triangular to lanceolate, 3-lobed; inflorescence tip not leafy; stem glabrous or coarse-canescent.   7 Sphaeralcea emoryi
+ Leaf blades deltate, lanceolate, ovate, triangular, or cordate, subhastate to 3-lobed; inflorescence tip leafy; stem indument soft   (25)
25 (24) Mericarps 12–14, 3.5–5.5 mm.   22 Sphaeralcea polychroma
+ Mericarps 10, usually 3 mm.   23 Sphaeralcea procera
26 (22) Stems (2–)4–10 dm   (27)
+ Stems 1–3(–6) dm   (28)
27 (26) Leaf blade surfaces hirsute, sparsely pubescent, or densely soft-pubescent, lobed, appearing green to gray-green.   8 Sphaeralcea fendleri (in part)
+ Leaf blade surfaces stellate-pubescent, commonly lobed or pedately divided, appearing yellow-green to gray-green to green.   11 Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia
28 (26) Stems green to gray-green; bractlets and leaf margins not red, reddish, or purple, usually green or tan.   12 Sphaeralcea hastulata (in part)
+ Stems gray-green to purple (red-purple basally in S. fumariensis); bractlets and sometimes leaf margins red, reddish, or purple   (29)
29 (28) Leaf blades densely stellate-pubescent; anthers yellow; mericarps 10–14, 3–4 mm.   9 Sphaeralcea fumariensis
+ Leaf blades sparsely stellate-pubescent; anthers usually red to purple, sometimes yellow; mericarps 13, 4.5–6 mm.   25 Sphaeralcea rusbyi

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