Lance Foster (hengruh) wrote,
Lance Foster

Plant of the Day: Scarlet Globemallow

On my way to class, I parked at the big empty parking lot a block away from school to eat my sandwich in peace and look at the hills. As I finished, I noticed a bright splash of small orange colored flowers in the weeds in front of the car, among the purple knapweeds and yellow mustards. I walked over to take a look. The area is regularly and heavily mowed. The orange-red blossoms were small, five-petaled, with a yellow center. The gray-green leaves were elegantly and deeply lobed, like a maple-leaf scrollwork or the beaded florals my tribe made.

I am no expert in plants, their use or identification. I have however noticed that when a plant seems to grab my attention, it is for a reason, sometimes not evident for years, but there is indeed a reason. Henbane and arrowleaf balsamroot are two examples from the last few years. So I imprinted the flower in my mental gallery (I don't pick flowers unless I am going to use them for medicine, or as a gift to a loved one), and plucked a single leaf to take to identify. I know I had seen this plant many times over the years, and probably had identified it before, but the memory was very vague.

At first I thought it might be a member of the rose family, but instead, after peering through some online guides and a book from the library, I found it was a member of the mallow family: Scarlet Globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea (Nutt.) Rydb.).

Montana Plant Life says:

"The Navajo used tea made from scarlet globemallow as a remedy for diseases caused by witchcraft. The roots were used to stop bleeding, and they were also chewed to reduce hunger when food was scarce. The leaves are slimy and mucilaginous when crushed, and they were chewed or mashed and used as poultices or plasters on inflamed skin, sores, wounds and sore or blistered feet. Leaves were also used in lotions to relieve skin diseases, or they were dried, ground and dusted on sores. Fresh leaves and flowers were chewed to relieve hoarse or sore throats and upset stomachs. Whole plants were used to make a sweet-tasting tea that made distasteful medicines more palatable. It was also said to reduce swellings, improve appetite, relieve upset stomachs, and strengthen voices. The Dakota heyoka chewed the plants to a paste and rubbed it on their skin as protection from scalding." (

I tasted the leaf. I put it in my mouth and let it sit there. First impression is a coolness and slight sweetness. It would make a nice tea. There is a very slight stickiness after a while, but not unpleasant. It is a "friendly" feeling plant. Pleased to meet you, scarlet globemallow. I took a sample home to learn more about scarlet globemallow, first singing an Ioway song as an offering to the plant and making sure there were other sister plants nearby. You never take the only plant. This is the one I took home (top and side view).

Kelly Kindscher also has an entry for it in his "Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie." The Sioux call it heyoka ta pejuta, "heyoka medicine," and the Cheyenne call it wikeisse'eyo, "sweet medicine," also used by the Cheyenne contraries. New Mexico's Hispanic herbalists call it Yerba de la Negrita. Overall, most seem to value it for its sweetness and cooling properties, for external skin issues as well as gastrointestinal problems (similar to slippery elm uses).
Tags: medicinal plants, plants

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