Sidalcea is a genus of about 25 species, with confusion of delimiting species due to supposed hybridization, morphological variation, and gynodioecy. The malvaceous Sidalcea malviflora has seven accepted subspecies. These subspecies are mostly endemic to California, but some can be found in Oregon and Baja California. Generally, checkerbloom or checkermallow grows in more or less dry, open places at elevations under 2300m.
This perennial herbaceous plant grows from a woody caudex and creeping rhizomes, and reaches 15 to 60cm in height. Its entire leaves are variably toothed or lobed, with the upper leaves along the stem often reduced in size. The stellate, or star-like, flower is bright to deep pink. Often, flowers are veined white. Like other members of the hibiscus family, the filaments of the stamens are united around the style. Seemingly unique to the genus in its family, Sidalcea has filaments fused into two groups near their tips (see: Andreasan, K. and B. Baldwin. 2003. Reexamination of Relationships, Habital Evolution, and Phylogeography of Checker Mallows (Sidalcea; Malvaceae) Based on Molecular Phylogenetic Data. Am. J. Bot.. 90(3):436-444.). More photographs of the species are available via Calphotos: Sidalcea malviflora.
Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany mentions this species being used as edible greens by the Luseño peoples of southern California and as a dried spice (made by mashing the leaves) to flavor black manzanita berries by the Yana of northern California.