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Sphaeralcea coccinea



  Montana Plant Life 2005 Louis-M. Landry
Tollefson, Jennifer E. 2006. Sphaeralcea coccinea. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [ ].




scarlet globemallow
red false globemallow
copper mallow

The scientific name of scarlet globemallow is Sphaeralcea coccinea (Nutt.) Rydb. (Malvaceae) [33,38,39,73,80,81,168]. There are 2 subspecies [80]:

Sphaeralcea coccinea (Nutt.) Rydb. ssp. coccinea
Sphaeralcea coccinea (Nutt.) Rydb. ssp. elata (E.G. Baker) Kearney

Malvastrum coccineum (Nutt.) Gray [1,50,64,73]
Sphaeralcea coccinea (Nutt.) Rydb. var. coccinea [91]
Sphaeralcea coccinea (Pursh) Rydb. var. dissecta (Nutt. ex Torr. & Gray) Kearney
Sphaeralcea coccinea (Nutt.) Rydb. var. elata (E.G. Baker) Kearney [91]
Sphaeralcea coccinea (Pursh) Rydb. var. elata (E.G. Baker) Kearney [82]


No special status

Information on state-level protected status of plants in the United States is available at Plants Database.


SPECIES: Sphaeralcea coccinea
Scarlet globemallow is native from British Columbia and Oregon east to Manitoba, Minnesota and Iowa and south to Texas and Mexico [56,72,77,81,82,168]. Plants Database provides a distributional map of scarlet globemallow.

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)



5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES40 Desert grasslands

K011 Western ponderosa forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K027 Mesquite bosques
K031 Oak-juniper woodland
K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K039 Blackbrush
K040 Saltbush-greasewood
K050 Fescue-wheatgrass
K053 Grama-galleta steppe
K054 Grama-tobosa prairie
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K057 Galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe
K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe
K060 Mesquite savanna
K061 Mesquite-acacia savanna
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K065 Grama-buffalo grass
K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalo grass
K069 Bluestem-grama prairie
K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K085 Mesquite-buffalo grass

66 Ashe juniper-redberry (Pinchot) juniper
68 Mesquite
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper
242 Mesquite
245 Pacific ponderosa pine

107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
109 Ponderosa pine shrubland
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
212 Blackbrush
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
404 Threetip sagebrush
405 Black sagebrush
406 Low sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
413 Gambel oak
414 Salt desert shrub
416 True mountain-mahogany
501 Saltbush-greasewood
502 Grama-galleta
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
505 Grama-tobosa shrub
601 Bluestem prairie
602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed
603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass
604 Bluestem-grama prairie
605 Sandsage prairie
606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass
609 Wheatgrass-grama
610 Wheatgrass
611 Blue grama-buffalo grass
612 Sagebrush-grass
615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama
704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass
705 Blue grama-galleta
706 Blue grama-sideoats grama
709 Bluestem-grama
710 Bluestem prairie
713 Grama-muhly-threeawn
714 Grama-bluestem
715 Grama-buffalo grass
718 Mesquite-grama
722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie
727 Mesquite-buffalo grass
729 Mesquite
733 Juniper-oak
735 Sideoats grama-sumac-juniper

Although scarlet globemallow is widespread in the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains regions of the United States and Canada, it is uncommon in some vegetation types and is not documented in every ecosystem or plant community in which it may occur. The list of vegetation types above is very broad, but it may occur in some types that are not listed.

Scarlet globemallow is most frequent in shortgrass and mixed-grass prairie of the United States and Canadian Great Plains. Although not listed as a dominant species in any vegetation classifications, it is often the dominant forb in these plains grassland communities. Other major plants in these communities include blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia), needleleaf sedge (Carex duriuscula), and plains prickly-pear (Opuntia polyacantha) [2,17,24,25,30,36,107,133,133,158]. Scarlet globemallow is also common in Colorado pinyon (Pinus edulis), singleleaf pinyon-Utah juniper (P. monophylla-Juniperus osteosperma), and sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities [14,82,121,142].

In addition to these widespread plant communities, scarlet globemallow also occurs in a number of less common habitats. It is 1 of the major species found, for example, on solonetz soils (also known as "scabby spots," "slick spots," or "burnouts") in western North Dakota along with blue grama, needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), threadleaf sedge, needleleaf sedge, and western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) [62]. In British Columbia, where scarlet globemallow is generally rare, it is common on sandy soils in the upper Columbia Valley along with plains reedgrass (Calamagrostis montanensis), creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata), and rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) [103].


SPECIES: Sphaeralcea coccinea

This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available (e.g. [33,39,72,82,168]).

Scarlet globemallow is a low-spreading, warm-season, long-lived perennial forb [56,72,86]. The maximum age reported for plants in northeastern Colorado is 35 years [27]. Stems emerge from a woody caudex located just underground and reach a height of 4 to 16 inches (10-40 cm). Plants are densely covered with stellate hairs. Leaves are palmately lobed, and flowers are clustered in dense, short racemes. The fruit is an indehiscent schizocarp with 1-seeded carpels. Seeds are small (0.08-0.16 inch long) and have a hard seed coat [33,56,72,73,79,81,82,93,150,168].

Scarlet globemallow plants are rhizomatous [72,168]. A large proportion of the plant biomass is concentrated below the soil surface in a deep, stout, woody taproot [56,57,86,150]. The main root may remain unbranched for 3 feet (90 cm) before it divides into lateral roots [1]. In a Saskatchewan study, maximum root depth was 40 to 72 inches (1-1.8 m). One or two large lateral roots, 0.04 to 0.12 inch in diameter, occurred in the top 12 inches (30 cm) of soil and extended downward, parallel to the taproot. Smaller lateral roots up to 8 inches (20 cm) long were found along the length of the taproot, but secondary branches were scarce [31].


Scarlet globemallow reproduces by rhizomes [33,72,93] and seeds [150,151]. In the Piceance Basin of northwestern Colorado, young plants were connected by rhizomes to parent plants up to 3.3 feet (1 m) away [57].

Pollination: No information is available on this topic.

Breeding system: No information is available on this topic.

Seed production: Scarlet globemallow may produce up to 1,860 seeds per plant [145]. Plants produce abundant seed given adequate moisture and fewer seeds when moisture is less available [57].

Seed dispersal: Wind was not a significant factor (p<0.05) in scarlet globemallow seed dispersal in the Piceance Basin [57]. No other information on seed dispersal was available as of 2006.

Seed banking: Evidence from 2 studies suggests that scarlet globemallow persists in the seed bank. Seeds successfully germinated from soil samples taken from a Colorado pinyon-Utah juniper community in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah [21]. Scarlet globemallow seeds also germinated from soil samples taken from a mixed-grass community near Miles City, Montana [70].

Germination: Scarlet globemallow has a hard, indehiscent seed coat that is difficult to break [57,79]. The seed requires scarification to germinate. Seeds germinated at a low rate relative to other species collected from a western North Dakota rangeland. Percent germination of seeds collected in the summer, stored under 3 different conditions and tested in the winter and spring, was as follows [16]:

  Room temperature storage Dry cold storage
(normal outdoor winter temperature fluctuations)
Wet cold storage
(moist conditions at 4 C in refrigerator)
January 4 1 0
February 5 1 7
March 1 1 3
April 1 0 0
May 0 0 1

In a laboratory experiment, a higher intensity of mechanical scarification resulted in a higher germination rate [57]. Passage through the digestive tract of American bison did not break seed dormancy in scarlet globemallow [54].

Seedling establishment/growth: It takes at least 2 years for scarlet globemallow plants to reach full size [118]. No other information on seedling establishment and growth was available as of 2006.

Asexual regeneration: Scarlet globemallow reproduces by rhizomes [33,57,72,93]. Sprouting from the caudex is likely.

Scarlet globemallow is found on dry prairies, plains, rangeland, hills, roadsides, open ground, and "waste places" [33,38,56,77,82,123,150,151,152]. It grows well on dry and disturbed sites [77,165].

Elevation: Scarlet globemallow occurs between 3,000 and 9,000 feet (920-2,750 m) [82,132,168]. Elevation ranges by state and region are as follows:

State Elevation
Arizona 5,000-8,000 feet [82]
Utah 3,000-9,000 feet [168]
Colorado 4,000-9,000 feet [132]
Nevada 6,000-7,000 feet [81]
Intermountain West 3,600-9,000 feet [73]

Soils: Scarlet globemallow is adapted to a broad range of soil types [151,165]. It occurs on sandy or gravelly open ground in Texas and the Intermountain West [33,73] and is most abundant on clay loam in western Canada [30]. In north central Colorado it is less frequent on clay loam than on loam and sandy loam [76]. In southeastern Utah seedling establishment and survival over a 3-year period were greater on sites with intact cryptobiotic soil crust (27%) than on sites where the crust had been removed (17%) [12].

Moisture requirements: Scarlet globemallow is extremely drought resistant [1,74,167]. It withstands dry conditions through vegetative dormancy and by shedding leaves to reduce its moisture requirements [77,86,152]. One source states that scarlet globemallow requires 10 inches (25 cm) of annual precipitation [123], but it is also said to "thrive" on sites that receive less than 12 inches (30 cm) of annual precipitation [130]. Despite considerable evidence that it increases during periods of drought [30,77,151,166], Turner and Costello [156] argue that scarlet globemallow and other plants with deep roots are at a disadvantage during dry conditions relative to plants with shallow root systems, such as plains prickly-pear, that can take advantage of the moisture from light showers.

Scarlet globemallow is a shade intolerant [123], early- to mid-successional species [105]. Its production was highest under early seral conditions in a mixed-grass prairie in South Dakota [159]. In eastern Colorado, scarlet globemallow appeared on abandoned dirt roads after 2 to 5 years [138]. It establishes naturally in disturbed areas but does not aggressively compete with established vegetation. Although it may decrease as a community matures, it is a long-lived perennial and tends to persist over time [29,57].

In a Colorado pinyon-Utah juniper community on Mesa Verde, Colorado, scarlet globemallow appeared in early postfire years and increased through the perennial forb and shrub stages (postfire years 4-100), but was absent from an unburned, 400-year-old "climax" stand [41]. In northeastern Colorado, it appeared on a mixed-grass prairie old field 3 to 5 years after abandonment, following colonization by weedy annuals. Scarlet globemallow persisted for several decades [29]:

Years since abandonment Frequency (%)
5 19
9 77
14 69
20 75
30 90
40 60

The basic phenology for scarlet globemallow is: winter dormancy; buds swell on crown; leaves elongate; stems elongate; flower buds develop; flowering; fruit develops; seed shatters; some leaves turn brown; fall regrowth; fall dormancy [106]. Growth begins between March and April, flowering occurs between April and August, and seeds mature between July and August throughout much of its range [30,53,79,106,151,165]. In northwestern Oklahoma growth begins before March [63]. In western North Dakota plants attain 52% of their total growth by the end of May, 86% by the end of June, and 100% by the end of July [53].

Flowering times vary by region:

Location Flowering time
Arizona [82] summer and fall
Texas [33] April-June, occasionally into October
South Dakota [77] May-August
Nebraska [152] April-August
North Dakota [53] June
Nevada [81] June-July
northeastern Colorado [32] July-August
base of Colorado Front Range [110] June
Great Plains [56,150] April-August
Intermountain West [73] late April-October
western Canada [30] June-July

In western North Dakota the average flowering date is 13 June [53]. Flowering dates and periods for scarlet globemallow between 1979 and 1984 near Woodworth, North Dakota, were as follows [22]:

Earliest 1st bloom Latest 1st bloom Median date of full flowering Median date when flowering 95% complete Length of flowering period (days)
7 June 7 July 29 June 10 July 25


SPECIES: Sphaeralcea coccinea
Fire adaptations: Little is known about the tolerance of scarlet globemallow to fire [169]. It has been described as "intolerant" of fire in mixed-grass prairie of southern Great Plains [174]. Certain morphological characteristics of scarlet globemallow, however, suggest that it is fire resistant. Although aboveground tissue may be killed by fire, rhizomes are located 0.8 to 4 inches (2-10 cm) below ground where they are protected from the heat effects of fire. Carbohydrates stored in the taproot allow for the production of new aboveground tissue following defoliation [169]. Rhizomes can send up new shoots soon after fire [169], and sprouting from the caudex is also likely. Globemallows are thought to regenerate from seeds stored in the soil after fire and other disturbances [165]. Scarlet globemallow readily invades disturbed areas [57] and is therefore a likely postfire colonizer.

Fire regimes: Fire plays an important role in many plant communities where scarlet globemallow is a common forb. Fire regimes in some of the most important communities are described briefly below:

Shortgrass and mixed-grass prairies: Fires were frequent in presettlement prairie ecosystems. Widespread plains grassland fires were often noted in historical records from the early 1880s [66], and presettlement fires probably occurred every 35 years or less. Agriculture, urbanization, and fire exclusion have greatly lengthened fire return intervals on the Great Plains [116,127,172]. Only a few shortgrass prairies retain most of their historical composition and structure [175].

Pinyon-juniper woodlands: Fire return intervals in pinyon-juniper woodlands vary greatly, but fire is important in eventually opening the canopy. Pinyon-juniper communities experience understory burns when fire is frequent but typically have moderate to long-interval, stand-replacing fires [111,153].

Sagebrush: Historic fire return intervals in sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems were variable, ranging from around 20 to 100 years. Fires were mostly mixed-severity, although more widespread fires occurred on some sites [75,172,173]. Fire return intervals in mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana) communities range from 15 to 40 years [7,20,108].

The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where scarlet globemallow is important. Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".

Community or ecosystem Dominant species Fire return interval range (years)
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [89,116]
Nebraska sandhills prairie Andropogon gerardii var. paucipilus-Schizachyrium scoparium <10 [116]
silver sagebrush steppe Artemisia cana 5-45 [69,122,172]
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [116]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [134]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 15-40 [7,20,108]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (x=40) [163,176]
saltbush-greasewood Atriplex confertifolia-Sarcobatus vermiculatus <35 to >100 [116,177]
desert grasslands Bouteloua eriopoda and/or Pleuraphis mutica 10 to <100 [104,116]
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp. <35 [116,172]
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii <35 [116,127,172]
blue grama-buffalo grass Bouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides <35 [116,172]
grama-galleta steppe Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis jamesii <35 to <100 [116]
blue grama-tobosa prairie Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis mutica <35 to <100 [116]
mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrub Cercocarpus ledifolius-Quercus gambelii <35 to <100 [116]
juniper-oak savanna Juniperus ashei-Quercus virginiana <35 [116]
Ashe juniper Juniperus ashei <35 [116]
western juniper Juniperus occidentalis 20-70 [116]
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum <35 [116]
wheatgrass plains grasslands Pascopyrum smithii <5-47+ [116,122,172]
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. <35 [116]
Colorado pinyon Pinus edulis 10-400+ [49,55,83,116]
Pacific ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa 1-47 [6]
interior ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-30 [6,11,94]
galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe Pleuraphis jamesii-Aristida purpurea <35 to <100 [116]
mesquite Prosopis glandulosa <35 to <100 [104,116]
mesquite-buffalo grass Prosopis glandulosa-Buchloe dactyloides <35 [116]
Texas savanna Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa <10 [116]
mountain grasslands Pseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 (x=10) [5,6]
oak-juniper woodland (Southwest) Quercus-Juniperus spp. <35 to <200 [116]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review

Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
Caudex/herbaceous root crown, growing points in soil
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Initial off-site colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)


SPECIES: Sphaeralcea coccinea
Scarlet globemallow is top-killed by fire, but it may persist or even increase following burning [35,42,113,169,173].

No additional information is available on this topic.

Scarlet globemallow readily invades disturbed areas [57,105] and may therefore naturally colonize burned areas. Scarlet globemallow was absent, for example, in the prefire vegetation in a singleleaf pinyon-Utah juniper woodland in Nevada. In the 2 years following prescribed burning, however, it was the 2nd most important forb after coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata) [164].

In several cases, scarlet globemallow increased following burning. In a mixed-grass prairie in western Nebraska, for example, scarlet globemallow biomass was significantly (p0.05) greater following spring, summer, or fall prescribed fires than in unburned areas. Biomass continued to increase into the 2nd growing season after burning, and productivity in burned areas exceeded that in unburned areas 2- to 5-fold [169]. In 2 sites in western North Dakota grasslands, scarlet globemallow frequency was greater after burning [35]:


Frequency (%)
Squaw Creek unburned 12
Squaw Creek burned (postfire year 3)


North Rim unburned 10
North Rim burned (postfire month 4) 12

Scarlet globemallow was slightly more abundant in burned areas than in unburned areas following a late summer wildfire in dry mixed-grass prairie in southeast Alberta. Data for burned sites are averages of postfire years 1 to 3 [42]:

Upland site Lowland site
Burned Unburned Burned Unburned
% weight composition
2.2 1.6 1.2 0.9

As an early to mid-successional species [105], scarlet globemallow is more abundant in more recently burned areas than in old burns or unburned areas. Scarlet globemallow was present in the early to mid-successional stages following several fires in a Colorado pinyon-Utah juniper community on Mesa Verde but was absent from an unburned stand. The frequency of scarlet globemallow in each stand was as follows [41]:

Postfire year 4
(1959 fire)
Postfire year 29
(1934 fire)
Postfire year 90
(1873 fire)
Unburned stand
6% 22% 2% absent

Percent cover of scarlet globemallow was greater in recently burned plots than in either old burn or unburned plots on redberry juniper (Juniperus coahuilensis) rangeland in the Rolling Plains of Texas [95]:

New burn (postfire year 4) 20%
Old burn (postfire year 8) 11%
Control (unburned) 9%

In at least 1 study conducted in a pinyon (Pinus spp.)-Utah juniper community in west-central Utah, there was no apparent difference in scarlet globemallow abundance in burned and unburned plots [115]:

  Unburned plots Burned plots
  1997 1998 1999 1997 1998 1999
Frequency (%) 3 2 3 3 3 3
Percent cover 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.9 0.5 0.6

Although scarlet globemallow was the only forb to increase significantly (p0.05) after a dormant-season prescribed fire in Kiowa National Grassland in northeastern New Mexico, it was 1 of 3 forbs to decrease significantly (p0.05) following a growing-season prescribed fire. Percent cover in control and burned plots was as follows [18]:

Control Dormant-season fire (April) Growing-season fire (July)
0.8 1.2 0.3

No additional information is available on this topic.

Because scarlet globemallow establishes well on disturbed, arid, and semiarid sites [19,30,74,105,130,131] and can persist or increase after fire [35,42,169], it may be valuable in natural revegetation or seeding on burned areas.


SPECIES: Sphaeralcea coccinea
Livestock commonly eat scarlet globemallow on rangelands in the Southwest and Great Plains [77,151], particularly when grasses are dormant [9,68,88]. Scarlet globemallow is an important component of cattle diets throughout much of its range [88,114,120,158]. On a shortgrass rangeland in Lincoln County, New Mexico, cattle preference for scarlet globemallow was high when scarlet globemallow had enough herbage to graze [68]. On the Central Plains Experimental Range in north-central Colorado, scarlet globemallow, blue grama, and sun sedge (Carex heliophila) averaged ~60% of monthly cattle diets over 2 grazing seasons [162]. Scarlet globemallow comprised 6% of the annual cattle diet on the Central Plains Experimental Range and was most important in the summer [60,141]. Scarlet globemallow, common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola) were the most common forbs eaten by domestic sheep on southeastern Montana rangeland, although forbs comprised <1% of the total diet [3].

Pronghorn: Scarlet globemallow provides important forage for pronghorn [135,150,151,170]. On rangeland in Petroleum County, Montana, it comprised 5.2% of rumen samples in summer and 0.4% in fall. July rumen samples contained 17.9% scarlet globemallow [28]. Scarlet globemallow was the largest component (18%) of pronghorn summer diets on the Pawnee National Grassland in northeastern Colorado [40].

Deer: Scarlet globemallow provides "excellent" forage for deer [151]. Mule deer eat scarlet globemallow during spring, summer, and fall in the Missouri River Breaks, Montana, with highest use in the fall months [98]. In southeastern New Mexico scarlet globemallow comprised a significantly higher (p<0.05) percent of mule deer diet in September (2.76%) than in June (1.74%) [99].

Bighorn sheep: Scarlet globemallow is a "major food item" of bighorn sheep in southwestern North Dakota [46].

Bison: Scarlet globemallow comprised 5.6% of the June diet of North American bison on shortgrass prairie in northeastern Colorado. Consumption was less than 2% during all other months studied (August, December, March, May, and October) [117].

Prairie dogs: Scarlet globemallow is a preferred food of black-tailed prairie dogs [85,87] and is commonly found in prairie dog towns on short- and mixed-grass prairie in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota [45,58,78,97,149]. Its long taproots enable it to survive burial beneath the mound of soil excavated from burrows [26]. Scarlet globemallow frequency was significantly greater (p<0.05) in black-tailed prairie dog colonies (35%) than on noncolonized shortgrass prairie sites (14%) in southwest Kansas [171]. It occurs "almost exclusively" on soil excavated from black-tailed prairie dog burrows in southwestern South Dakota [85] and increases in abundance as the years since black-tailed prairie dog colonization increase [4], suggesting that it may be favored by black-tailed prairie dog grazing and burrowing activities.

Scarlet globemallow was the most abundant forb in black-tailed prairie dog diets on 2 sites near Fort Collins, Colorado, comprising up to 24% of their diet [17]. On the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, South Dakota, scarlet globemallow and plains prickly-pear were the 2 most important herbs in the black-tailed prairie dog diet. In September, scarlet globemallow comprised 20.9% of the diet, significantly more (p<0.001) than during any other month [44]:

December January February May July September
2.8% 2.7% 2.2% 0.6% 2.6% 20.9%

Consumption was highest (9.33% of diet) in June on rangeland in Montana, Colorado, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Arizona [84]. On the Central Plains Experimental Range, it comprised 7% of the annual black-tailed prairie dog diet and was most important in the fall [60]. White-tailed prairie dogs in Wyoming also ate scarlet globemallow (1.08% of annual diet). Consumption was highest (6.50%) in July [84].

Other small mammals: Scarlet globemallow is an important food for black- and white-tailed jackrabbits in Utah and Colorado [48,59]. It comprised 15% of the annual diet of desert cottontails on the Central Plains Experimental Range and was most important in the fall [60]. Scarlet globemallow is an important component of northern pocket gopher diets on shortgrass prairie in Colorado [23]. It was the 3rd most important food in northern pocket gopher diets on the Central Plains Experimental Range, comprising 10.3% of the yearly diet. It was consumed from May to September, with the highest consumption in June (32.9% of diet) [161]. Scarlet globemallow is among the most preferred plants of the plains pocket gopher in eastern Colorado [112,160]. Consumption was highest in November (5.8% of diet) and March (4.7% of diet) [112].

In the Piceance Basin of Colorado, scarlet globemallow comprised 11.5% of the summer diet of bushy-tailed woodrats and 2.9% of the golden-mantled ground squirrel summer diet [67]. Scarlet globemallow, milkvetch (Astragalus spp.), and summer-cypress (Kochia scoparia) were the most abundant forbs in rodent diets on the Pawnee National Grassland. Scarlet globemallow was found in the stomach contents of Ord's kangaroo rats (0.4%), northern grasshopper mice (3.5%), prairie deer mice (1.7%), and thirteen-lined ground squirrels (2.6%) [47].

Birds: The green herbage of scarlet globemallow is a preferred food of scaled quail in Oldham County, Texas [10]. Some birds eat scarlet globemallow fruits [150].

Insects: Scarlet globemallow is an important part of the diet of some insects. It is a preferred nectar source for several Lepidopteran species of concern at the Cedar River National Grasslands in southwestern North Dakota [101]. Striped sand grasshoppers on shortgrass prairie in Colorado preferred scarlet globemallow during experimental feeding trails [109]. Scarlet globemallow is unpalatable to Mormon crickets [125].

Palatability/nutritional value: Scarlet globemallow palatability is rated poor to good, depending on the animal species, the location, and the season [77,84]. Palatability of scarlet globemallow in several western states has been rated as follows [34]:

  Colorado Montana North Dakota Utah Wyoming
Cattle fair fair fair fair fair
Domestic sheep fair fair fair fair fair
Horses poor poor fair poor fair
Pronghorn ---- fair ---- fair good
Elk ---- poor ---- fair poor
Mule deer ---- poor ---- fair ----
White-tailed deer ---- ---- ---- ---- fair
Small mammals ---- ---- ---- fair ----
Small nongame birds ---- ---- ---- fair ----
Upland game birds ---- ---- ---- fair ----
Waterfowl ---- ---- ---- poor ----

Scarlet globemallow forage is highly digestible. Vitamin A and calcium content are high; magnesium and phosphorus content are low [143,154]. Scarlet globemallow provides an important source of nitrogen to grazing cattle on western rangelands, particularly when grasses are dormant. Maintaining scarlet globemallow and other palatable forbs on rangelands reduces the need to supplement cattle diets with protein [8].

Chemical composition and average digestibility of scarlet globemallow in a shortgrass steppe community in Colorado were as follows [143]:

  Dry matter digestibility (%) Crude protein (%) Digestible crude protein (%) Digestible energy
Ca (%) P (%)
Early growth 65 8.9 7.2 2975 2.06 0.15
Full leaf 86 11.0 9.4 3491 2.13 0.18
Mature 92 12.9 10.1 3625 2.12 0.15
Dormant 71 9.0 7.3 3174 2.53 0.15

Under greenhouse conditions, nutrient concentrations (mg/g) in leaves and stems of scarlet globemallow were as follows [131]:

  Cu Fe Mn Na Zn N Mg K Ca P
Leaves 0.018 1.23 0.061 1.05 0.030 32 5.2 18 24 3.2
Stems 0.021 .460 0.031 0.810 0.044 23 4.7 18 16 2.4

Roots and rhizomes are important for carbohydrate storage in scarlet globemallow. The average level of stored carbohydrates in scarlet globemallow roots over 2 years was 107 mg/g, the highest of any storage organ of 9 species studied. The average aboveground storage level was 88 mg/g, which was higher than all species except western wheatgrass. Carbohydrate reserves are relatively low during most of the growing season, suggesting that the plant is highly dependent on leaf area for carbohydrate replenishment. Depleted carbohydrate reserves are replenished relatively quickly (2-2.5 months) in the fall and are highest at the beginning of fall dormancy in November [106].

Cover value: Scarlet globemallow provides fair cover for small nongame mammals and birds [34].

Scarlet globemallow establishes well on disturbed sites and provides good ground cover. Its drought tolerance and ability to spread rhizomatously make it particularly valuable for restoration of disturbed arid and semiarid sites [19,30,74,105,130,131]. Although its value for erosion control is ranked only low to moderate [105,139], it is used in native seed mixtures to stabilize roadsides and other disturbed areas [15,136,165]. It performs well in plantings in mixed-grass, shortgrass, ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii),bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima), shadscale saltbush (Atriplex confertifolia), greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus), and pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.) communities [105,147]. Seeds are commercially available [157].

Scarlet globemallow is 1 of many plants with mycorrhizal fungal relationships found in an undisturbed sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) community in the Piceance Basin. Maintaining or re-establishing the mycorrhizal fungal component in disturbed ecosystems is an important part of restoration programs [126].

The Northern Cheyenne and Dakota tribes used scarlet globemallow in their ceremonies. By 1st rubbing their hands with the plant, they were able to remove meat from boiling water without scalding their fingers [52,65]. The Dakota and Blackfoot Indians used a paste made from scarlet globemallow as a cooling agent for burns, scalds, and sores [150,151].

Response to grazing: Many studies have shown that scarlet globemallow increases in abundance with grazing [23,37,71,92,96,100,107,128,144,155]. Scarlet globemallow is also apparently tolerant of overgrazing [77,151].

Some studies have shown, however, that scarlet globemallow abundance is lower in grazed areas. It was, for example, more abundant in a deferred-rotation pasture (249 animals) than in a continuously grazed pasture (189 animals) in a mixed-grass prairie near Fort Collins, Colorado [61]. In a study conducted at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, scarlet globemallow was more abundant in protected than in grazed tobosagrass (Hilaria mutica)-buffalo grass pastures. The frequency of scarlet globemallow in both pastures was as follows [137]:

  Protected Grazed
September 1968 30% 0%
May 1969 63% 0%
July 1969 43% 0%

Rangeland seeding: For information on seed collection, cleaning, storage, seed mixtures, cultivars, and seeding rates see [57,74,79,102,118,129,139,146].

Other: Scarlet globemallow is a host plant for bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata) in Colorado, which is an alternate host of a stem blister rust (Cronartium comandre) affecting pines [64].

Scarlet globemallow is "sensitive" to catechin, a phytotoxin secreted by spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) roots, under laboratory conditions. It was, however, consistently observed coexisting with spotted knapweed under field conditions, suggesting that scarlet globemallow seedling establishment may be limited by catechin sensitivity while persistence of scarlet globemallow plants present prior to spotted knapweed invasion may not be affected [119].

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