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Malacothamnus (bush-mallow) is a genus of shrubs and subshrubs found throughout much of mainland California and on three of the Channel Islands. Outside of California, Malacothamnus is known from the northern half of Baja California, from a disjunct location in central Arizona, and possibly from a historic location that may have been in southern Arizona or adjacent Mexico. Plants of this genus are most commonly found in early-successional, post-burn plant communities.
Thirty-seven Malacothamnus taxa have been described, but circumscriptions of many taxa are controversial due to overlapping morphological variation and limited analyses. At one extreme, Thomas Kearney recognized 28 taxa. At the other extreme, David Bates who wrote the 1993 Jepson Manual and the Flora of North America treatments recognized only 11. A more recent researcher of Malacothamnus, Tracey Slotta, recognized 17 taxa, reviving two species and four varieties subsumed by Bates. Sixteen taxa are currently included in the CNPS Rare Plant Ranking system, with two presumed extinct. Ten of these are not recognized under the Flora of North America treatment and six are not recognized under the most recent Jepson Manual treatment. Further research is currently in progress to resolve the taxonomy of the genus using both molecular and morphometric approaches.
- Malacothamnus abbottii – Abbott's bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus aboriginum – Indian Valley bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus arcuatus – arcuate bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus clementinus – San Clemente Island bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus davidsonii – Davidson's bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus densiflorus – many-flowered bushmallow, hispid bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus enigmaticus – enigmatic bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus fasciculatus – chaparral mallow, mesa bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus fasciculatus var. catalinensis - Catalina Island bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus fasciculatus var. fasciculatus - chaparral mallow, mesa bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus fasciculatus var. laxiflorus - lax-flowered bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus fasciculatus var. nesioticus - Santa Cruz Island bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus fasciculatus var. nuttallii - Nuttall's bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus foliosus – monarch bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus fremontii – Fremont's bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus gracilis – slender bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus hallii – Hall's bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus helleri – Heller's bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus jonesii – Jones' bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus marrubioides – foothill bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus mendocinensis – Mendocino bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus orbiculatus – Tehachapi bush-mallow, round-leaved bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus niveus – San Luis Obispo bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus palmeri – Palmer's bush-mallow, Santa Lucia bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus palmeri var. involucratus – Carmel Valley bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus palmeri var. lucianus – Arroyo Seco bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus palmeri var. palmeri – Palmer's bush-mallow, Cambria bush-mallow
- Malacothamnus parishii – Parish's bush-mallow
- Kearney, T. H. 1951. “The Genus Malacothamnus, Greene (Malvaceae).” Leaflets of Western Botany VI (6):113–40.
- Kearney, T. H. 1955. “Notes on Malvaceae VII: A New Variety in Malacothamnus.” Leaflets of Western Botany VII (12):289–90.
- Bates, D. M. 1993. “Malacothamnus.” In The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California, edited by James C. Hickman, 751–754. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Bates, D. M. 2015. “Malacothamnus.” In Flora of North America North of Mexico, edited by Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 6:280–85. New York and Oxford.
- Slotta, T. 2004. “Phylogenetics of the Malacothamnus Alliance (Malvaceae): Assessing the Role of Hybridization and Molecular and Morphological Variation in Species Delineation.” Ph.D. dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
- Slotta, T. 2012. Malacothamnus. In B. Baldwin, D. Goldman, D. Keil, R. Patterson, T. J. Rosatti, and D. H. Wilken [eds.], The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California, 884–885. University of California Press.
- "CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants: Malacothamnus"
- Morse, K. "Malacothamnus - The Bush-mallows"
- Morse, K., and T. Chester. 2019. Malacothamnus enigmaticus (Malvaceae), a new rare species from the desert edge of the Peninsular Range in San Diego County, CA. Madroño 66: 103–119.
- Calflora Query for Malacothamnus
- iNaturalist: Bush Mallows - The Genus Malacothamnus
- Jepson Manual Treatment of Malacothamnus
- Malacothamnus website of researcher Keir Morse
- USDA Plants Profile for Malacothamnus
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