Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Checker Bloom

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Checker Bloom
Scientific Name:Sidalcea sparsifolia
Family:Malvaceae (Mallow)
Plant Type:Perennial
Size:up to 80 cm
Habitat:Coastal Sage
Blooms:March to July
Fire Response:Stump Sprout or Seed

Checkerbloom Mallow Sidalcea sparsifolia is a perennial found in diverse habitats from fields to grassy hillsides at elevations from sea level to 7,500 feet. This plant is native to California. In the Santa Monica Mountains this plant is part of the following communities: chaparral, coastal sage scrub, or on the edge of riparian woodland. A preference for rocky soil and partial shade, this plant uses it deep roots to colonize areas where it grows. Various sources describe the below ground part of the plant as either root, rhizome or caudex -Santa Monica Mountains Wildflowers Guide.

If rainfall is sparse the plant may not bloom, and an additional bloom is possible if there is a late rain. After the blooms are gone, this plant will die back to the ground. Interesting note about the blooms - they last less than a day before shriveling up. When you see this bloom, keep that in mind and take a moment to appreciate the ephemeral beauty of flowers!
Herbaceous (stems are green and flexible) perennial grows up to 80 cm tall. Leaves: deeply lobed, with long stalks (petioles); hirsute (hairy) below, stellate (star like) above. Flowers: in many - flowered racemes (short equal stalks along a central stem), blooms are pink to lilac, often with white veins. I was looking thru my photos and noticed that some plants have Stamens and some do not. Milt's book says Male and Female plants are an identifying trait and of course another book states that the flower is bisexual (having both male and female parts) and that the flower actually aborts the stamens of the upper flowers.
Name Origin: Sidal'cea: a combination of two related genera in the Mallow family, Sida and Alcea, which were also two Greek names for mallow (ref. genus Sidalcea) sparsifo'lia/sparsifo'lium: sparsely-leaved Sidalcea malviflora (de Candolle) A. Gray subsp. sparsifolia C. L. Hitchcock, Perenn. Sp. Sidalcea, 32. 1957 (as malvaeflora); S. malviflora var. hirsuta C. L.
Name Origin was found on a wonderful site for native plant information.

Checker Bloom - Originally featured: October 2017
Last modified: March 31 2017 21:24:01.
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves