Sometimes envisioning native plants in the home garden or landscape takes some imagination. That’s the case with Sphaeralcea coccinea, also called Desert Mallow, Cowboy’s Delight, and Scarlet Globemallow. This hardy little plant grows along gravel roads, in highway rights of way, and some of the driest habitats Wyoming has to offer, and folks, that is dry!
The reason I think Scarlet Globemallow requires some imagination, is that it is often found in dry and dusty places which can mask the intensity of its deep orange to salmon colored blooms, but think about this flower blooming against a back drop of purple or blue and you can begin to realize its potential to bring a unique color to your garden and landscaping efforts.
Sphaeralcea grows to 4-8 inches high and creates a nice patch of ground cover. Plant the fresh seed in the fall or spring along the edges of a sunny slope or rock garden. I think it would look great planted en mass next to a natural walkway of pavers where it could create a transition from super low growers between the pavers into a mid height flower bed.
Think I’ll try it next spring mixed in with the white and grey of Snow in Summer.
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Some additional information regarding Scarlet globemallow. The USDA Plants database lists this species as threatened and endangered in Iowa and as invasive or weedy in Wyoming.
Hmmm, that puzzles me since I can think of various examples of plants which are weedy in wetter climes, but not so here in our tough environment, but I can’t think of many in the reverse.
I don’t like to promote noxious weeds, and since this is a native (and in my experience just didn’t seem very invasive) I actually didn’t check on its status.
To clear things up a little, and be sure I am not leading anyone astray, Spharalcea coccinea is included in the Weeds of the West book edited by Tom Whitson, and that is why it is listed as invasive on the USDA site.
However, the book states “These species are common along roadsides and in rangeland but are not strongly competitive.” So my original gut feeling remains that growing this plant in a home garden would not be problematic, but I will watch it carefully if I get it going next spring, and I will report back.
Where do you get your seeds??
Hi T&L! Sorry for the delay in responding. I’ve been a little behind in my ‘real’ job.
I collect quite a few of my seeds in the wild. I keep an eye out for plants I am interested in as the family goes hiking, camping, etc. I try to go back to the spot when I think the seed will be mature enough to harvest. A small paper bag is enough for my needs and I have permission from the land owners. You should check with your local BLM office about harvesting on BLM lands, but they have told me as long as I am not collecting for commercial uses I don’t need any special permits.
There are a few other places where seeds of plants found in my area can be purchased. They are natives in the sense that the same species exists here, but I feel pretty strongly that locally collected seeds best express the adaptations to my local climate.
Having said that, Western Native Seed of Colorado and Stock Seed Farms of Nebraska are regional sources. There is a place in Riverton, I think, that sells some native grasses. I’ll look that up…..
The place I was thinking about is Wind River Seeds in Manderson, WY- not Riverton. I am unable to get their website to load, so I’m not sure if they are still in business, or what kinds of seeds they are currently selling.
Hey, and here’s a new one on me: Conservation Seeding and Restoration, Inc. which has a branch in Rock Springs.