Physaria alpina
Author: Rollins


Avery Peak twinpod


Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Close up of Physaria alpina by Scott Smith
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Close up of Physaria alpina by Scott Smith
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Close up of Physaria alpina by Lori Brummer
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Taxonomic Comments

Physaria alpina was described in 1981 (Rollins 1981).

Ranks and Status

Global rank: G2
State rank: S2
Federal protection status: None
State protection status: None

[+] Description and Phenology

Physaria alpina by Dorothy DePaulo
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General description: Physaria alpina is a perennial herb with a long taproot and a basal rosette of broadly ovate leaves often narrowing to a distinct petiole.  Stems are decumbent (lying on the ground with the inflorescence curving upward).  On the stem are two to five oblanceolate to spatulate leaves.  There are two to six flowers in each inflorescence.  Petals are bright yellow and are 7 to 9 mm long.  The leaves and stems are covered by silvery, stellate hairs that result in the plants looking distinctly bluish.  The fruit is also covered by stellate hairs and also has a notch at the apex (Ackerfield 2012, Flora of North America 2010).  

Look Alikes: Not likely to be confused with other species in the alpine areas of central Colorado.



Phenology: Physaria alpina flowers from June to July. Fruits are apparent in August (Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2012, Flora of North America 1993+).

[+] Herbarium Photos

Images of Physaria alpina housed at the Colorado State University Herbarium.

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[+] Habitat

Habitat of Physaria alpina by Scott Smith
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Physaria alpina is found on open, rocky alpine tundra and ridge crests.  Sites are underlain by limestone and dolomite, often whitish or red in color.  Populations occur on flat to 30 percent slopes.  Plants have also been found on road-cuts and mine spoils.  Frequently associated species include Kobresia myosuroides, Dryas octopetala, Claytonia megarhiza, Salix brachycarpa, Eritrichium nanum, and Phlox condensata (Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2012, Flora of North America 2010).

Elevation Range: 11,450 - 14,101 feet (3,490 - 4,298 meters)

[+] Distribution

Distribution of Physaria alpina in Colorado according to mapped land ownership/management boundaries (CNHP 2012, COMaP v9 ).
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Distribution of Physaria alpina in Colorado
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Colorado endemic: Yes
Global range: Endemic to central and west-central Colorado (Lake, Gunnison, Pitkin and Park counties). Estimated range is 70 square kilometers (27 square miles), calculated in GIS by drawing a minimum convex polygon around the known occurrences (calculated by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program in 2008).

[+] Threats and Management Issues

The primary threat at this time is considered to be off road vehicle use (Rondeau et al. 2011). Other threats are from hiking, and potential resumption of mining in the vicinity of the species habitat. It is not known if all of the occurrences are or are not threatened by these activities.

[+] References

    • Ackerfield, J. 2012. The Flora of Colorado. Colorado State University Herbarium. 433 pp.
    • Beardsley, M. and D. A. Steingraeber. 2013. Population dynamics, rarity and risk of extirpation for populations of Mimulus gemmiparus (budding monkeyflower) on National Forests of Colorado. A research report submitted to the USFS Forest Service. Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forets and Pawnee National Grassland. pp 17. Accessed online on May 11 at: http://www.r5.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/Rare_Plants/profiles/Critically_Imperiled/mimulus_gemmiparus/ documents/USFS_MimulusStatusReport2013.pdf
    • Colorado Natural Heritage Program. 2008. The Fifth Annual Colorado Rare Plant Symposium: G2 Plants of Colorado. Symposium Minutes. Available on-line http://www.cnhp.colostate.edu/teams/botany.asp#symposia.
    • Colorado Natural Heritage Program. 2012. Biodiversity Tracking and Conservation System. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee, ed. (FNA). 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Oxford Univ. Press, New York, Oxford.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2010. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 7. Magnoliophyta: Salicaceae to Brassicaceae. Oxford University Press, New York. xxii + 797 pp.
    • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
    • Lavender, A.E., M.M. Fink, S.E. Linn, D.M. Theobald. 2011. Colorado Ownership, Management, and Protection v9 Database. Colorado Natural Heritage Program and Geospatial Centroid, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. (30 September).
    • Neely, B., S. Panjabi, E. Lane, P. Lewis, C. Dawson, A. Kratz, B. Kurzel, T. Hogan, J. Handwerk, S. Krishnan, J. Neale, and N. Ripley. 2009. Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Strategy, Developed by the Colorado Rare Plant conservation Initiative. The Nature Conservancy, Boulder, Colorado, 117 pp.
    • Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists. 2009. RARE Imperiled Plants of Colorado, a traveling art exhibition. Exhibition catalogue developed by the Denver Botanic Gardens and Steamboat Art Museum.
    • Rollins, R. 1981. Studies in the Genus Physaria (Cruciferae). Brittonia 33(3) pp. 332-342.
    • Rollins, R.C. 1993. The Cruciferae of continental North America: Systematics of the mustard family from the Arctic to Panama. Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, California. 976 pp.
    • Rondeau, R., K. Decker, J. Handwerk, J. Siemers, L. Grunau, and C. Pague. 2011. The state of Colorado's biodiversity 2011. Prepared for The Nature Conservancy. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.
    • USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
    • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 2012. Colorado Flora, Eastern Slope, A Field Guide to the Vascular Plants, Fourth Edition. Boulder, Colorado. 555 pp.
    • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 2012. Colorado Flora, Western Slope, A Field Guide to the Vascular Plants, Fourth Edition. Boulder, Colorado. 532 pp.

Last Updated

2013-02-04