Scarlet globemallow is one of the most common wildflowers (forbs) in the sage-steppe habitat on and adjacent to Seedskadee NWR. In addition to being a hardy perennial forb, scarlet globemallow is memorialized in history as the last plant collected by Meriwether Lewis on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Native Americans chewed scarlet globemallow and applied it as a paste to relieve the pain of burns and flesh wounds. 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 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.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. Seeds are hard to collect, making them expensive, and the germination rate is very low.
Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS
June 12, 2014
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