The Sonoran Desert Florilegium

plants of the florilegium

Hibiscus coulteri with Ipomoea cristulata
Desert rose mallow and Scarlet creeper

HIBISCUS COULTERI below  |  IPOMOEA CRISTULATA  here.

FAMILY:  Malvaceae — Mallow family

OTHER COMMON NAMES:  Coulter's hibiscus, Desert hibiscus

ETYMOLOGY:  The genus Hibiscus derives its name from the Greek word hibiskos, the name given to the marsh mallow plant by Dioscorides (ca. 40–90), a Greek physician and botanist.

The species epithet, coulteri, honors Thomas Coulter (1793-1843), an Irish physician and botanist who explored and collected plants in Mexico, Arizona, and California in the first half of the 19th century.

DESCRIPTION:  The perennial desert rose mallow is often seen growing among other shrubs. These shrubs give support to the sparsely branched, thin woody stems of the desert rose mallow, which commonly grows to about 3' high.

Periodic blooming occurs between February and November and is dependent on rain. The delicate cup-shaped pale yellow flower is nearly 2" wide and looks very much like a rose as its bud begins to open. Looking into the flower center, a large reddish purple spot can be seen at the base of each of the five petals along with many yellow anthers and the five branches of the style, each ending with a velvety reddish purple stigma. Underneath and surrounding the petals and sepals is a ring of 1" long bracts (leaf-like structures). The leaves are dark green and have fine hairs along the margins. The upper leaves have three long lance-shaped lobes. The fruit is a slightly flattened oval with compartments containing seeds. It is seen on the plant as a star-shaped capsule case long after it has dried, split open, and released its seeds.

Desert rose mallow is commonly found on rocky slopes and sides of canyons at elevations from 1,500-4,000'.