Scarlet Mallow


This tough little plant can grow where nothing else will—on the edge of gravel roads, eroded hillsides and badlands. The plant with its grey-green leaves spreads by creeping roots, and develops short stems with terminal clusters of orange to brick-red simple flowers, 10–25 mm across.

According to Kershaw, the crushed leaves are mucilaginous, and were used as a dressing on sores and wounds. Also, the roots were chewed, and then placed on wounds to stop bleeding and to promote healing. (140) Johnston reports a very interesting use: “Medicine men of some tribes rubbed the paste over their hands and arms. The coating that resulted protected the skin from scalding and enabled the medicine man to mystify onlookers by reaching into a pot of boiling water to retrieve a bit of meat.” (45)


Growth habit and range: This herbaceous perennial plant has an erect to semi-erect growth habit and is commonly found on hillsides and exposed sites on the prairies. It grows to a height of 15–20 cm.

Description: The leaves are alternate on the stem, have long stalks, and are deeply divided into several lobes. The leaf colour is grey-green due to the presence of dense clusters of hairs. Each leaf measures up to 4 cm in length. The flowers appear in June and July and are held in small clusters at the ends of the stems. Each blossom is comprised of 5 pale orange to red petals which each measure 10–20 mm in length, and which are notched at their distal ends. The fruit is a 10 compartmented, hairy capsule containing one seed per cell. Each seed is 1–2 mm in length, black and kidney-shaped.


  • Johnston, Alex. 1987. Plants and the Blackfoot. Occasional Paper No. 15., Lethbridge Historical Society, AB. 

  • Kershaw, Linda. 2000. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies. Lone Pine Publishing, AB.