Sierra Corydalis

A native perennial endemic to California, Sierra corydalis (Corydalis caseana ssp. caseana) grows along moist, shaded stream banks and other wet habitats. There are eight recognized C. caseana subspecies, all of which are geographically isolated. These specimens, belonging to the caseana subspecies were growing along Kings Creek in the Upper Kings Creek Meadow at Lassen Volcanic National Park (Shasta County CA).

One to several hollow stems arise from a fleshy root. The alternate, waxy blue leaves are pinnately compound. There are about five leaves per Sierra corydalis stem each with two to four orders of leaflets.

The inflorescence is a terminal panicle of fifty or more flowers on the primary axis. The white to pinkish flowers have purple tips. The four petals are arranged into a crested hood and a tapered spur. Each flower is on a short pedicel (stalk).

Sierra corydalis fruits are pod-like capsules (egg to pear shaped) which burst open when ripe ejecting small black seeds.

Although it is toxic to sheep and cattle, livestock will often graze on Sierra corydalis.

The American botanist, Asa Gray (1810 – 1888) named the genus. “Corydalis” is Greek for a type of crested lark. Presumably Gray thought the ornate flowers of these plants resembled the lark. Professor Eliphalet Lewis Case (1843 – 1925), a California botanist and teacher, originally described Sierra corydalis and is honored by the species name.

Sierra fumewort is another common name for C. caseana.

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