Physaria vitulifera
Author: Rydb.

Fiddleleaf twinpod

Brassicaceae (mustard family)

Close up of Physaria vitulifera by Pamela Smith.

Close up of Physaria vitulifera by Pamela Smith.
Close up of Physaria vitulifera by Pamela Smith.

Ranks and Status

Global rank: G3
State rank: S3
Federal protection status: None
State protection status: None

Description and Phenology

Physaria vitulifera by Teresa Burkhert.

General description: Herbaceous perennials with leaves forming a rosette. The plants have characteristic fiddle-shaped leaves, with deeply incised margins. The fruits are irregular shaped and angular with prominent sinuses at the top and very small sinuses at the bottom.

Look Alikes: This species could be confused with Physaria bellii. Physaria vitulifera has larger, fiddle shaped leaves, and the constriction separating the locules of the fruit is much deeper above than below. The basal leaf margins on P. bellii are not incised, while they are deeply and broadly incised on P. vitulifera. The hybrid species, P. vitulifera x bellii found in Jefferson County, has incised leaves and wrinkly fruits (Ackerfield 2012, Smith et al. 2011).



Habitat of Physaria vitulifera by Pamela Smith.

Habitat of Physaria vitulifera by Pamela Smith.

This species is found on rocky slopes and dry hillsides (Ackerfield 2015), often on decaying granite. Associated species include Artemisia frigida, A. ludoviciana, Astragalus parryi, Lupinus argentea, Oenothera caespitosa, Opuntia polycantha, Oxybaphus linearis, Penstemon secundiflorus, Ciliaria austromontana, Pentaphylloides floribunda, and Festuca brachyphylla ssp. coloradensis.

Elevation Range: 5,712 - 10,230 feet (1,741 - 3,118 meters)


Colorado endemic: Yes
Global range: Reported as an endemic of central Colorado in the Flora of North America (FNA Vol. 7). Known from Boulder, Clear Creek, Douglas, El Paso, Gilpin, Jefferson, Park and Teller counties. There are 17 specimens from southeast Wyoming attributed to Physaria vitulifera, which are in fact Physaria acutifolia (Jennings 2004; Kothera et al. 2007).
Distribution of Physaria vitulifera in Colorado according to mapped land ownership/management boundaries (CNHP 2017, COMaP).

Distribution of Physaria vitulifera in Colorado.

Threats and Management Issues

The encroachment of exotic species, such as Bromus inermis, Anisanthe tectorum, Acosta diffusa, and Verbascum thapsus into Physaria vitulifera habitat is the primary threat to this species. Urban development, non-motorized recreation, and grazing are also threats to some occurrences. Colorado climate scenarios for 2050 suggest temperature will increase by 3-7 F and precipitation may decrease or increase. The impact to any given rare plant habitat is likely to vary. Long-term monitoring that includes weather and soil moisture data is critical to understanding climate impacts.


    • Ackerfield, J. 2015. Flora of Colorado. Brit Press, Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, TX. 818 pp.
    • Colorado Natural Heritage Program and the Geospatial Centroid. 2017. The Colorado Ownership and Protection Map (COMaP). Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO.
    • 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.
    • Jennings, W.F. 2004. The Status of Physaria vitulifera in Wyoming.
    • 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.
    • Kothera, L., S. M. Ward, and S. E. Carney. 2007. Assessing the threat from hybridization to the rare endemic Physaria bellii Mulligan (Brassicaceae). Biological Conservation 140: 110-118.
    • 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.

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