Gierisch mallow or Gierisch's globemallow Sphaeralcea gierischii
ESA status: endangered

Giersh's globemallow pc Tony FratesNative plants have little chance of surviving a dusty, destructive gypsum mining operation, even a hearty desert dweller like the Gierisch mallow (also known as Gierisch’s globemallow). This narrowly endemic wildflower, first described in 2002, grows on gypsum outcrops in arid Mohave desertscrub communities in Washington County, Utah, and northern Mohave County, Arizona. The tall, wispy plant with orange flowers appears to be a perennial that sprouts annually from a woody stalk each spring. Only 18 populations are known to exist, 17 on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and one on Arizona state land.

The species is highly imperiled as most of its range is being actively mined for gypsum. Gypsum is used to manufacture sheetrock, which is used in home construction. As the housing market improves, gypsum mining will likely increase. Gypsum mining in Arizona threatens the two largest populations of Gierisch mallow, representing up to 50 percent of the species’ total numbers. Gypsum mining eliminates mallow habitat and creates piles of tailings that may be dumped on plants. It is unknown if Gierisch mallow will readily grow on reclaimed mining sites. WildEarth Guardians petitioned for the plant’s federal protection in June 2007, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated Gierisch mallow as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2008 and proposed it for listing as "endangered" in 2012.
While gypsum mining is the major threat to Gierisch mallow, the beleaguered plant must also contend with other factors. Unauthorized off-road vehicle use, illegal dumping and impacts associated with illegal target shooting are degrading habitat, as are invasive plant species such as red brome and cheatgrass. Livestock will also eat or trample the mallow.  Listing under the ESA is the only way to ensure the preservation of this rare plant.

photo credit: Tony Frates, Utah Native Plant Society