This is a perennial wildflower about 2½-6' tall that is either
unbranched or sparingly branched. The central stem is light
gray-green, densely pubescent, terete, and rather stout. Alternate
leaves occur at intervals along this stem. Individual leaves are up to
7" long and 6" across; they are oval-cordate in outline with 3-7
palmate lobes and crenate-dentate margins. Usually the middle lobes of
the leaves are larger than the lateral lobes. The upper surface
of these leaves is medium green and hairless to sparsely
pubescent, while their lower surface is light gray-green and pubescent.
petioles are up to 6" long, light gray-green, and pubescent. Sometimes
short secondary stems with small leaves develop from the axils of the
leaves on the central stem. Flowers are produced either individually or in clusters of 2-3
from the axils of the leaves along the upper half of each plant. The
pedicels of these flowers are rather short (up to ¾" long), light
gray-green, and pubescent. Each flower is 1¼-2½" across, consisting of
5 light pink petals (obcordate in shape), 5 light gray-green sepals
(ovate in shape) that are joined together at the base, a central reproductive column, and 3 light gray-green
floral bracts (linear in shape). Individual sepals are about ½" in
length, while individual floral bracts are about the same length; both
floral bracts and sepals are short-pubescent. The stamens
are located along the outer half of the reproductive column, while the
styles are located at its tip. The anthers of the stamens are
yellow or white.
The blooming period occurs during the summer, lasting
about 2 months. Individual flowers are short-lived and slightly
fragrant. Afterwards, each fertile flower is replaced by a ring of
carpels containing the seeds. The carpels are reniform and narrowly
wedge-shaped; their outer edges are pubescent. Each carpel contains 2-4
seeds (about 3 mm. in length). The root system consists of a short
stout taproot and rhizomes. Vegetative colonies of plants occasionally
develop from the rhizomes.
The preference is full
or partial sun, moist to mesic conditions that are well-drained, and
soil containing some loam or rocky material. Germination of the seeds
requires scarification of the seed coat through mechanical means or by
fire. In a dormant state, the seeds can be remain viable for up to 50
years. Cross-pollination with genetically distinct plants is required for
the production of viable seeds.
Range & Habitat:
Kankakee Mallow has been found only in Kankakee County, where it is
rare and state-listed as 'endangered' (see Distribution Map
consist of rocky riverbanks, woodland edges, open rocky woodlands, and
abandoned fields. In all of these habitats within Illinois, the
underlying bedrock of the thin soil consists of dolomite. Occasional
wildfires are beneficial in maintaining populations of Kankakee Mallow
as they stimulate the germination of seeds and reduce competition from
woody vegetation. This wildflower has been cultivated successfully in gardens.
Very little is known about floral-faunal
for this rare wildflower. The flowers are probably cross-pollinated by
various long-tongued and short-tongued bees. White-Tailed Deer and
other mammalian herbivores readily browse on the foliage. It may be
necessary to place wire cages over individual plants in order to
protect them from such animals.
A flower garden in Urbana, Illinois.
The Kankakee Mallow has attractive flowers and foliage. This rare
wildflower is endemic to Illinois, although an adventive population has
been found in Indiana near a railroad. It is thought that members of a
Chicago wildflower society may have established this population by
throwing seeds of the Kankakee Mallow out of the window of a passing
train during the early 20th century. There are some differences of
opinion regarding the taxonomic classification of the Kankakee Mallow.
It has been classified as the typical variety of a more western
and sometimes it is considered the same species as the more
eastern Iliamna corei
Mountain Mallow). This last species was
discovered on a sandstone outcrop in Virginia, where it was under
attack by feral goats. The Kankakee Mallow differs from Peter's
Mountain Mallow by having flowers that are fragrant. In general, mallows of the
Iliamna genus differ from many other mallows by having 3 linear floral
bracts behind the sepals of each flower.