The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
The conservation of Eremalche kernensis is fully sponsored.
Dieter Wilken contributed to this Plant Profile.
Once thought to be more widely distributed because of confusion with the closely related Parrys mallow (Eremalche parryi), the Kern mallow is restricted to fewer than 20 occurrences distributed within an area of about 40 square miles centered in the Temblor Valley of southwestern Kern County, California (Williams et al. 1998). Kern mallow is effectively a desert species, growing in a region that receives less than 6 inches of rainfall per year. Germination typically takes place during the winter months and plants are normally in flower and fruit by March and April. The current distribution coincides with the California aqueduct, the construction of which may have contributed to loss of some populations. Construction of pipelines and other activities associated with petroleum production also contributed to habitat loss prior to its listing as an endangered species.
An annual, Kern mallow is treated as having white or pink flowers on slender branches with reduced leaves above a basal rosette of palmate leaves. The relationship to and differences from Parrys mallow are controversial, but it is generally agreed that flower color is the best trait for separating Kern mallow from Parrys mallow (Wiggins 1951; Cypher 1994). Kern mallow may also be confused with a close desert relative, Eremalche exilis, which differs primarily by flower size and a nearly prostrate life form (Bates 1993; Andreasen et al. 2002). Eremalche kernensis and E. parryi are of special biological interest, because individual plants can either have bisexual flowers or functionally female flowers, for which the technical term is gynodioecious. Female flowers generally produce more seeds than the bisexual ones. This kind of breeding system is relatively rare in flowering plants and of much scientific interest. Bisexual flowers are also larger than the female flowers in both subspecies. Kern mallow is also notable in having some populations polymorphic for flower color (white versus pink), and with varying flower sizes and seed set (Mazer et al. 1993).
Distribution & Occurrence
Kern mallow occurs primarily on clayey, alkaline soils of open flats and gentle slopes, typically in shrublands dominated primarily by saltbush (Atriplex), often in association a mixture of native and exotic annuals.
|The number of plants varies from year to year, depending on rainfall in the preceding winter. During years with above normal rainfall, 1000s of plants have been reported from several occurrences. Nineteen extant occurrences were documented during the late 1990s, all distributed within an area of about 40 square miles|
Conservation, Ecology & Research
Competition from introduced exotic annuals
Natural and human-caused fires
Localized compression of soil from vehicles or pipeline and powerline maintenance work
More detailed analysis of specific ecological requirements to maintain stable populations
Development of a propagation protocol to be applied to in situ conditions
Protection of populations on public lands
Bates, D.M. 1993. Eremalche p. 748. In: Hickman, J, editor. The Jepson Manual: higher plants of California. University of California Press. Berkeley. p1,400.
Wiggins, I.L. 1951. Eremalche. pp. 96-97. In: Abrams, L. and R. L. Ferris, editor. Illustrated flora of the Pacific states. Volume III. Stanford University Press. p866.