New Mexico Wildflowers: Mallow Family



About 4,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians began using an Old World mallow species, the marsh mallow or marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) for medicinal purposes. The practice survived as empires came and went, until in the 1800s the French turned medicinal marshmallow into something fun to eat. In modern marshmallow the marsh mallow root sap has been replaced by gelatin. All of this is to say that the mallows you see blooming in New Mexico do have a connection to the marshmallows you toast over a fire.


Photos are presented in order of genus and species. Hover over a photo series to control the images.

Flower-of-an-Hour (Hibiscus trionum)

Flower-of-an-hour has lovely but short-lived blossoms. An Old World plant, it is used as an ornamental. In much of the U.S. it has escaped and become a pest. Apparently it doesn't do well as an escapee in New Mexico, as there are few observations in the wild. The one shown here popped up in my back yard after days of sustained rain.


Common Mallow or Cheeseweed (Malva neglecta)

An introduced species. Look for tiny five-petaled flowers with lavender veins, set among small leaves (in shape, not unlike those on domestic geraniums). The plant as a whole is low-lying.


Alkali Mallow (Malvella leprosa)

Rubbed between your fingers, the leaves of this species feel gritty—and the "grit" rubs off.


White Checkermallow (Sidalcea candida)

In my June 2022 photo of white checkermallow leaves, you can see a white spider lurking on the underside of a leaf.


Globemallow (Sphaeralcea)

One plant list for Bernalillo County includes fourteen species and subspecies of Sphaeralcea. Usually you'll encounter orange flowers. As my photos show, globemallow flowers also come in pink—including in species whose flowers are more commonly orange. Globemallows in various shades are widely available from suppliers of garden plants. I found my two examples of a pink globemallow in empty lots; I suspect that the seeds derived from purchased plants.