Plant Species of the Bright Angel Trail:
Golden corydalis, Corydalis aurea

See Plant Guide to Bright Angel Trail for an introduction to this page, especially the Introduction To These Species Pages.


Synonym: Corydalis curvisiliqua ssp. occidentalis (for C. aurea ssp. occidentalis)

Identification status: 100% for the species. The subspecies is not clear, and, in fact, the subspecies may not be distinct breeding entities in this area.

This is a fun species to come across, since its flowers are quite different from the usual flowers one sees. Another common name for this species, that I like better, is scrambled eggs, since that exactly describes the color of the flowers.

This species is sometimes placed in the poppy family, Papaveraceae, since its leaves bear a strong resemblance to those in that family (for example, by Kearney and Peebles), and its flowers are reminiscent of golden eardrops, Dicentra chrysantha. It is sometimes placed in its own family, Fumeriaceae.

Two subspecies exist, but there appear to be problems in reliably separating the subspecies in Arizona. As a result, most vouchers in Arizona are determined only to the species level. That is what I'll do here as well, at least until I see fruit on these specimens, and get some further understanding on the distribution of the subspecies at the Grand Canyon.

Kearney and Peebles did not recognize the subspecies in their flora, but stated that Two subspecies, both occurring practically throughout the range of the species in Arizona, are recognized by Ownbey. Both the Flora of North America and the Vascular Plants of Arizona recognize the subspecies.

The subspecies are distinguished as follows in all floras:

1 Capsules slender, pendent or spreading at maturity, usually 18-24 mm; seeds without marginal ring; leaves generally exceeding racemes.... ssp. aurea
1' Capsules stout, erect at maturity, 12-20 mm; seeds with narrow marginal ring; racemes generally exceeding leaves.... ssp. occidentalis

The plants here have the racemes exceeding the leaves, and hence would appear to be the ssp. occidentalis given in the 1987 Grand Canyon Flora. However, the 2001 Vascular Plants of Arizona treatment places ssp. occidentalis only below an elevation of 3800 feet. Since the plants here are at 6440 feet elevation, this poses a little problem for that determination, which is why I am punting on the subspecies here for now. (I note that the Flora of North America treatment gives this subspecies extending to 9200 feet elevation, so this might in fact not be a problem.)

The distribution maps given by the Flora of North America show that in the two subspecies overlap completely in southwest U.S.A., with ssp. occidentalis having a small area in the western parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to itself, and with ssp. aurea having a huge area north of the state of Utah to itself. One can speculate from this that ssp. occidentalis is just beginning to emerge as a separate subspecies, which could account for the difficulty in separating the subspecies in most of the southwest.

Al Schneider also reports that he has difficulty separating the two subspecies in the four corners area.

From a SEINet search on 12 May 2008, there are 12 vouchers of this species from the Coconino County portion of the Grand Canyon, with 6 determined only to the species, 3 determined as ssp. aurea and 3 determined as ssp. occidentalis. Three of those vouchers are from the Bright Angel Trail, with two determined only to the species and one determined as ssp. occidentalis. Note that there may be additional vouchers at other herbaria not available through SEINet.

First occurrence on Bright Angel Trail: mile 0.64, elevation 6440 feet (1963 m).

Number of plants along Trail: at least 5 plants were found in at least 2 different locations in May 2008.


From 4 May 2008, mile 0.64:

From 6 May 2008, near mile 1.4:

Note how different the leaves are for the above plants, which were in heavy shade, than the plants in the open area at mile 0.64.


See Resources for Grand Canyon Flora for further information on most of these references. Entries in the second column are either the name used in that source or a page reference. The name is linked to online pages when available. If a given reference does not contain this taxon, the entry is either left blank or contains a hyphen.

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Copyright © 2008 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last Update: 12 May 2008