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Sphaeralcea ambigua (Desert globemallow)
Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia

Sphaeralcea ambigua

Sphaeralcea ambigua A. Gray

Desert Globemallow, Apricot Globe-mallow, Desert Mallow, Globe Mallow, Apricot Mallow

Malvaceae (Mallow Family)


USDA Symbol: spam2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Shrubby and woolly, this perennial grows 1-3 ft., with numerous large, apricot-orange to pink flowers in wand-like clusters near the tips of weak, wide-ranging, usually erect stems. The broad leaves have three lobes and rounded, scalloped edges. A grayish plant often with many stems.

One of the largest-flowered, most drought-tolerant species of Globe-mallow. In wet years it forms spectacular displays in the low, hot southwestern deserts. In some forms petals are pale purplish-pink.


From the Image Gallery

10 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Schizocarp
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink , Orange , Purple
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov
Bloom Notes: Apricot or red-orange, lavender, pink or white.


USA: AZ , CA , NV , UT
Native Distribution: S.w. UT to s. CA, s. to Oaxaca in southern Mex.
Native Habitat: Dry, rocky slopes; sandy wash edges to 3500 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Dry, rocky or sandy soils.
Conditions Comments: This drought tolerant plant is the most xeriphytic of the Southwest Sphaeralceas. It is relatively short-lived but usually self-seeds.


Use Wildlife: The large number of flowers produced over a year provides a steady source of pollen and nectar to honey bees and other insects.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Plant untreated seed 1/4" deep in fall. Usually will germinate in the winter and grow rapidly in the spring.
Seed Treatment: No treatment needed.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Naval Air Station Kingsville - Kingsville, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Sibley Nature Center - Midland, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR


Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Sphaeralcea ambigua in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Sphaeralcea ambigua in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Sphaeralcea ambigua


Record Modified: 2023-02-28
Research By: TWC Staff

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