Keck's Checker-mallow

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Keck's Checker-mallow

Sidalcea keckii

ListedFebruary 16, 2000
FamilyMalvaceae (Mallow)
DescriptionSlender, annual herb with a few deep pink flowers and lobed leaves.
HabitatFoothill annual grasslands of the central western Sierra Nevada Mountains.
ThreatsUrbanization; grazing; habitat disturbance.


Keck's checker-mallow, also known as Keck's checkerbloom, is a slender, hairy, erect annual herb that grows 6-13 in (1.5-3.3 dm) tall. Lower leaves have 7-9 lobes, while upper leaves have a tapered base and 2-5 notches in the upper lobes. In April through May, a few small, deep pink flowers appear, which are 0.4-0.8 in (10-20 mm) wide. Seeds are smooth and pink-tinted.

This species of the Sidalcea genus can be distinguished from four other closely related plants by the number, size and structure of the flowers, the presence of a purplish spot on the flower, the size, shape and structure of the stem leaves, and the density of hairs on the stems.


The habitat requirements of the Keck's checker-mallow are not fully understood. It currently grows on clay soils in the foothill annual grasslands of the central western Sierra Nevada Mountains at 500-1,000 ft. (152-305 m) elevation. The clays on which it occurs are thought to be derived from serpentine soils (soils high in magnesium, low in calcium, and laden with heavy metals).

Fire is a natural part of this species ecosystem and will not harm the species depending on the season the fire occurs.


Three historic populations of the Keck's checker-mallow were documented in Tulare County in 1935 and 1938, found ranging from 400-1,400 ft elevation (120-425 m). The populations have not been found at two of these sites for 53 years, and the third site has never been relocated. The species was considered to be extirpated until a new population was found in Tulare County, California, in 1992.

This checker-mallow can be found in two populations in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Current distribution places the species in both the Tulare and Fresno Counties in the southern end of the valley. The Tulare County population is on private land and had a total of 60 plants in 1992. In 1998 a new population of 216 individual plants was found in Fresno County on a mixture of private and federal lands.


The largest threats to the Keck's checker-mallow are urban development, agricultural land conversion and grazing. The population found in Tulare County is found entirely on private land being used for livestock grazing. If grazing on this property becomes too intense, then the viability of this particular population of the Keck's checker-mallow could be threatened.

Future protection of this population in Tulare County is not guaranteed. The landowner has not allowed the government to enter the property and check the status of the population, and the intentions for the property are not known. The zoning of this private property allows for the building of a subdivision, business, or mixed business and residential development on the land. The adjacent properties are zoned for crop agriculture, citrus or cattle grazing. In 1992, a proposal for a subdivision was submitted, but was withdrawn.

Both populations of the Keck's checker-mallow are vulnerable to random natural occurrences due to their small sizes and numbers. The population found in Fresno County has no known threats except for random natural occurrences. Natural occurrences that can be a threat to these populations include fire, changes in weather, flood, drought or disease.

Conservation and Recovery

In order to protect the remaining populations, the Federal government is undertaking a system to protect the habitat of the Keck's checker-mallow. A priority system for determining the immediacy of the threats to the checker-mallow is being put into place, and this species will be given critical habitat designation due to its placement on that timeline. In the meantime, a recovery plan will be instituted and appropriate funds will be allocated to the protection of this species.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
Eastside Federal Complex
911 N. E. 11th Ave
Portland, Oregon 97232-6121
(503) 231-6121

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office
2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605
Sacramento, California 95825-1846
Telephone: (916) 414-6600
Fax: (916) 460-4619


United States Department of the Interior. 16 February 2000. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Determination of Endangered Status for Sidalcea keckii (Keck's checker-mallow) From Fresno and Tulare Counties, CA." Federal Register 65 (32).

University of California-Berkeley . "Sidalcea keckii." CalFlora Database Project: A Botanical Resource for California on the Internet. ( Date Accessed: July 5, 2000.