CPC Plant Profile: Kern Mallow
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Plant Profile

Kern Mallow (Eremalche parryi ssp. kernensis)

Flowers of Eremalche kernensis Photo Credit: Ellen Cypher
Description
  • Global Rank: T2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Malvaceae
  • State: CA
  • Nature Serve ID: 154292
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 09/18/2021

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).

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden holds 4 accessions of Eremalche parryi subsp. kernensis in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 19637 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden holds 15 accessions of Eremalche parryi subsp. kernensis in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 21710 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has collected 4 seed accessions of Eremalche parryi subsp. kernensis from 3 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 6 maternal plants

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden has collected 2 seed accessions of Eremalche parryi subsp. kernensis from 2 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 63 maternal plants

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Endemic to California, Eremalche parryi ssp. kernensis is known from fewer than twenty occurrences, all in Kern County. One occurrence is on Bureau of Land Management property, but the agency has not undertaken any special management of the site. This annual herb is threatened by agriculture, grazing, oil development, transmission line maintenance and expansion, exotic plant competition, and off-road vehicle use.

Dieter Wilken
  • 01/01/2010

Intensive grazing or trampling Competition from introduced exotic annuals Natural and human-caused fires Localized compression of soil from vehicles or pipeline and powerline maintenance work

Dieter Wilken
  • 01/01/2010

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

Dieter Wilken
  • 01/01/2010

Not Known

Dieter Wilken
  • 01/01/2010

Most known occurrences occur either on private land or on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Dieter Wilken
  • 01/01/2010

Detailed studies of reproductive biology, including mode of pollination, seed dispersal and dormancy, and the genetic basis for gynodioecy More detailed analysis of specific ecological requirements to maintain stable populations

Dieter Wilken
  • 01/01/2010

Development of a conservation seed bank Development of a propagation protocol to be applied to in situ conditions Protection of populations on public lands

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Nomenclature
Taxon Eremalche parryi ssp. kernensis
Authority (C. Wolf) D. Bates
Family Malvaceae
CPC Number 1616
ITIS 524929
USDA ERPAK
Common Names Kern Mallow
Associated Scientific Names Eremalche kernensis | Eremalche parryi ssp. kernensis | Malvastrum kernensis
Distribution Temblor Valley and adjacent slopes, Kern County, California.
State Rank
State State Rank
California S2
Habitat

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.

Ecological Relationships

Although pollination may be effected by insects, pollination by wind is also suspected based on experimental ex situ studies of plants grown under insect-free conditions (Mazer et al. 1993). Seeds apparently require some form of stratification prior to germination (Mazer et al. 1993), but longevity in the soil and mode of dispersal are unknown. Survivorship of plants is greater in areas of low plant density (Williams et al. 1998), suggesting that competition, especially from exotic naturalized annuals, is detrimental. Survival rates were lower in sites exposed to fire and in the vicinity of powerline corridors (Cypher 2005).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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