Sphaeralcea procera C.L. Porter
Family: Malvaceae
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NM Rare Plant Technical Council Website (Ferguson 1988), Allred and Ivey 2012, Martin and Hutchins 1980
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Perennial herb, usually 2-3 m tall at maturity, from a woody base; stems stout, with multiple ascending branches. Leaves: Alternate along the stems, on petioles; blades 1-5 cm long and 3-lobed, the lateral lobes shorter than the central lobe and the margins irregularly toothed; leaf surfaces rugose (wrinkled) and covered with whitish or grayish stellate hairs. Flowers: Pink-purple and numerous in elongate, interrupted leafy thyrses (compact cylindrical to cone-shaped panicles); sepals 5, triangular, 5 mm long, densely pubescent; petals 5, rose-purple, 5-10 mm long. Fruits: Schizocarps that split into about 10 pie-shaped segments (carpels); carpels up to 3.5 mm high, lacking apical cusps (short abrupt point at the top of each) and having net-like reticulations on lower portions of the side walls; each carpel contains a single seed. Ecology: Found in desert grassland and shrubland, at about 4,500 ft (1372 m); flowers July-September. Distribution: south-central New Mexico Notes: This is a narrow endemic. It was described based on a single population in southwest New Mexico near Deming, which appears to no longer exist. Allred and Ivey (2012) list the species as limited to Luna County, which is the county of the type locality. The New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council dropped the species from their rare plant list in 2017, arguing that it is either extinct or never was a valid taxon. However, Seinet shows a small handful of collections scattered around the southern half of New Mexico, some of which were collected or determined by quite well-known and reputable botanists, and therefore the decision was made to include the species in this field guide. If not a valid taxon, then it should likely be subsumed into S. polychroma, another rare species from which it differs only subtly. S. polychroma comes in a variety of flower colors, including pink and purple, and has slightly larger fruits, with carpels 4-5 mm high and an outward-curving apical cusp, 1 mm long, attached to the top of each carpel. S. procera has rose-purple flowers and smaller fruits, less than 3.5 mm high, that lack the reflexed apical cusps at the top of the carpels. Ethnobotany: Unknown Etymology: Sphaeralcea is from the Greek sphaira, a globe, and alcea, the hollyhock genus (a type of mallow); procera comes from the Latin procer, tall. Synonyms: None Editor: AHazelton 2017
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