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Physaria aurea
(Golden bladderpod)

[taxon report][distribution map][all photos][line drawing]



Family: Brassicaceae

Scientific Name: Physaria aurea (Wooton) O'Kane & Al-Shehbaz

Synonyms: Lesquerella aurea Wooton

Vernacular Name: Golden bladderpod

R-E-D Code: 1-1-3

Description: Biennial or short-lived perennial, usually densely pubescent, the hairs sessile or short-stipitate, simple or forked, 5- to 9-rayed, smooth or finely granular; stems several, erect or the outer ones decumbent or procumbent, simple or sometimes much branched in the upper half, to 6 dm high but usually much less; basal leaves obovate or rhombic and shallowly dentate, petiolate, sometimes lyrate-pinnatifid, to about 2.5 cm long; stem leaves obovate to rhombic or oblanceolate, entire to shallowly and remotely dentate, the upper sessile, the lower short-petiolate, 2-4(6) cm long; inflorescences usually dense and many-flowered; petals yellow, 4.5-7.5 mm long; fruiting pedicels strongly recurved, to 2 cm long; silicles sessile or nearly so (not stipitate), ovoid and slightly obcompressed or globose, 4-6 mm long, valves sparsely pubescent or glabrous on exterior, sparsely pubescent on interior; styles 2.5-3.6 mm long; ovules 2(3) per locule. Flowers July-September, after the summer rains begin.

Similar Species: It is similar to Physaria gooddingii, which has sigmoid fruiting pedicels and flattened silicles; in addition, the two are allopatric and differ in other ways. It is most likely to be confused with P. valida, another Sacramento Mountains bladderpod. Physaria aurea has predominately recurved fruiting pedicels and typically 2 ovules per locule, while P. valida has straight to loosely curved fruiting pedicels and 6-10 ovules per locule.


Distribution: New Mexico, Otero and Lincoln counties, Sacramento and Jicarilla mountains.

Habitat: Open sites and bare areas of rocky limestone soil, road banks, open woods in montane coniferous forest; 2,000-2,750 m (6,500-9,000 ft).

Remarks: Molecular, morphological, distributional, and ecological data strongly support the union of Physaria and Lesquerella. The genus Lesquerella has about 75 species and the genus Physaria has about 22 species, but Physaria is the older name. The rules of botanical nomenclature require that the older name be retained, thus all species of Lesquerella have been transferred to Physaria (Al-Shehbaz and O'Kane 2002). The authors petitioned for an exception to this rule for Lesquerella, but were denied.

Along with Physaria lata, it is one of two endemic bladderpods in the Sacramento Mountains. Tidestrom and Kittell (1941) considered P. aurea a synonym of P. gordonii, but according to Rollins and Shaw (1973) it is not closely related to any other species.

Conservation Considerations: Although this plant is narrowly endemic, it can be locally common in the Sacramento Mountains. Its numbers vary greatly from year to year, perhaps depending on the timing and amount of precipitation. It is often found in disturbed habitats, so some populations along roads and trails could be adversely affected by the absence of repeated disturbance and the closure of its habitat by dense, long-lived vegetation.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

Al-Shehbaz, I.A. and S.L. O'Kane, Jr. 2002. Lesquerella is united with Physaria (Brassicaceae). Novon: A Journal for Botanical Nomenclature from the Missouri Botanical Garden 12:319-329.

*New Mexico Native Plants Protection Advisory Committee. 1984. A handbook of rare and endemic plants of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Rollins, R.C. 1993. The Cruciferae of continental North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

Rollins, R.C. and E.A. Shaw. 1973. The genus Lesquerella (Cruciferae) in North America. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tidestrom, I. and Sr. T. Kittell. 1941. A flora of Arizona and New Mexico. The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C.

Wooton, E.O. 1898. New plants from New Mexico. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 25:260.

Information Compiled By: David Bleakly, 1999; last updated 2006

Agency Status:
Taxon USFWS State of NM USFS BLM Navajo Nation Natural Heritage NM Global Rank
Physaria aureaSoCSoC...S2G3


Photo credits in header Peniocereus greggii var. greggii © T. Todsen,
Lepidospartum burgessii © M. Howard, Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta © R. Sivinski
©2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council