Sphaeralcea species are 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[
Malvastrum digitatum Greene
Sphaeralcea pedata angustiloba A.Gray
Sphaeralcea tenuipes Wooton & Standl.
Common Name: Juniper Globemallow
Sphaeralcea digitata is an erect to decumbent, herbaceous perennial plant usually growing 30 - 40cm tall, occasionally as small as 10cm or as large as 55cm[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine.
The hairs on the leaves can cause irritation to some people[
Southern N. America - Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, northern Mexico
Diverse substrates including gypsum, desert scrub; at elevations from 1,200 - 2,200 metres[
Sphaeralcea species from western N. America are generally species of warm, dry and very freely draining habitats. They are often tolerant of very low winter temperatures but, like many species with downy leaves, they are not very tolerant of winter wet and will often fail to overwinter in mild but wet winter areas[
Species in this genus generally require a warm, sunny position in a moderately fertile, freely-draining soil[
An infusion of the whole plant is used to treat stomach aches[
Sphaeralcea species are good sources of mucilage in the form of mucopolysaccharide starches. This has been shown to stimulate macrophage activity and help promote healing and resistance, especially in the skin, upper intestinal tract, urinary tract and lungs[
The whole plant is demulcent and emollient[
]. Taken internally, it can be used to soothe sore throats and irritations along the digestive tract, urinary tract etc. Applied externally, it can be used to soothe and promote healing of cuts, burns, wounds etc[
The plant is a rich source of mucilage. An infusion is often used as a hair rinse after shampooing, when it is said to give the hair body. A strong infusion will curl the hair if it is not rinsed out[
Seed - it has a hard seed coat and benefits from either autumn sowing or scarification of stored seed[
]. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing.
Softwood cuttings in a frame in early summer[