Callirhoe involucrata (T. & G.) A. Gray

Purple Poppy Mallow

Callirhoe involucrata plant2

Family - Malvaceae

Habit - Perennial forb from a thickened taproot.

Stems - Sprawling or spreading with ascending tips, to 50 cm, densely pubescent with mostly stellate hairs, scabrous.

Callirhoe involucrata stemStem and stipule.

Leaves - Alternate, petiolate, stipulate. Stipules persistent, auriculate, clasping, to 2 cm long, 2 cm broad, ovate or lanceolate, glabrous, with ciliate margins. Basal leaf petioles 5-9 cm long, pubescent with mostly stellate and sparse simple hairs. Basal leaf blades 2-6 cm long, kidney-shaped to nearly circular in outline, with 3 or 5 deep palmate lobes, these sometimes irregularly lobed again, broad or narrow, the margins entire or sparsely and coarsely toothed, the upper and lower surfaces pubescent with dense 4-rayed stellate and sparse simple hairs. Leaves of the aerial stems with the blades 3-8 cm long, broadly ovate-cordate to obovate in outline, with 3 or 5 deep palmate lobes, these usually pinnately lobed again, the margins entire to sparsely and coarsely toothed, the upper surface pubescent with simple hairs, the lower surface pubescent with stellate and simple hairs.

Callirhoe involucrata leaf1Leaf adaxial.

Callirhoe involucrata leaf2Leaf abaxial.

Callirhoe involucrata leafPressed leaf.

Inflorescence - Racemes with 4- 10 flowers, these on long peduncles. Peduncles hirsute, to 15 cm. Flowers closely subtended by 3 bractlets, these 8-13 mm long, linear to narrowly ovate or oblanceolate, with hairy margins.

Flowers - Calyces 5, 12-19 mm long, the outer surface densely pubescent with simple hairs (these often in irregular fascicles along the strongly raised nerves) and also with 4-rayed stellate hairs, the lobes 8-16 mm long, lanceolate to narrowly lanceolate or less commonly narrowly ovate. Petals 5, 19-33 mm long, pale rose to more commonly wine red or purplish red, often with a lighter area toward the base, glabrous, blunt at apex. Stamen column 1.3 cm long. Filaments deep rose-pink. Anthers pale yellow. Styles 1 cm long, deep rose-pink, at first hidden by stamen column. Ovary of 15-20 carpels in a ring to 5 mm in diameter.

Callirhoe involucrata calyx2Bractlets and calyx.

Callirhoe involucrata flowerFlower.

Callirhoe involucrata flower2Corolla, fully open.

Fruits - Schizocarps 9-12 mm in diameter, with 14-20 mericarps. Mericarps indehiscent, 3.0-4.5 mm long, the dorsal surface glabrous or pubescent with mostly simple hairs, the sides of the fertile portion with a reticulate pattern of thickenings, separated from the inconspicuous beaklike sterile portion but without a well-developed collar. Seeds 2-3 mm long, kidney-shaped, black or less commonly dark brown.

Callirhoe involucrata fruitFruits.

Lookalikes - Callirhoe bushii, other members of the genus.

Flowering - May - August.

Habitat - Prairies, open woods, roadsides, pastures, railroads.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This is a striking plant with largish flowers of an amazingly rich color. In Missouri it is the most common species of the genus. The plant's main range is to our west, centered in Nebraska through Oklahoma, and in those areas it can be very common. In Missouri it is more scattered. Identification of the Callirhoe genus is trivial, at least for plants in bloom, since nothing else in Missouri has the intensely wine-colored flowers. Differentiation of C. involucrata from other members of the genus can be a bit more challenging. Characters which point to this species are the presence of three bractlets immediately behind the 5-parted calyx, presence of branched hairs on the leaf undersides, and a sprawling (rather than upright) habit.

The plant does well in a garden setting and is favored due to its intensely colored flowers. Widespread cultivation has somewhat obscured the species' natural range. The roots of the perennial Callirhoe species are reportedly both edible and palatable.

Missouri's plants are referrable to var. involucrata. Two other varieties have been recognized on the basis of leaf division and bract characters. These occur to our southwest but are not found in Missouri.

Members of the Malvaceae typically have flower parts in multiples of five. The stamens are generally fused into a column, and this feature, along with the characteristically shaped fruits, are strong family indicators.

Photographs taken in the Ozark Scenic Riverways, Shannon County, MO., 7-8-03 (DETenaglia); also at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 6-8-2007 and 7-1-2013, near Halsey, Thomas County, NE, 6-9-2015, and at Ingalls US-50 rest area, Gray County, KS, 6-4-2016 (SRTurner).


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