Plants winter annual or biennial, glaucous, from ± branched caudices. Stems 10-50, prostrate-ascending, 2-3.5 dm. Leaves compound; blade with 3 orders of leaflets and lobes; ultimate lobes elliptic, 1.5 times or more longer than wide, margins incised, apex subapiculate. Inflorescences racemose, 10-20(-30)-flowered, primary racemes shorter than to slightly exceeding leaves, secondary racemes fewer flowered; bracts elliptic to linear, 4-10 × 1-2 mm, rarely larger, margins often denticulate toward apex, distal bracts usually much reduced. Flowers at first erect, later reflexed; pedicel 5-10 mm; sepals ovate to attenuate-ovate, to 1-3 mm, margins often sinuate or dentate; petals pale to bright yellow; spurred petal 13-16 mm, spur straight or slightly incurved, 4-5 mm, apex subglobose, crest low and incised or absent, marginal wing moderately to well developed, unspurred outer petal 9-11 mm, crest same as that of spurred petal; inner petals oblanceolate, 8-10 mm, blade wider than claw and more prominently winged toward apex, claw 3.5-4.5 mm; nectariferous spur 2-3 mm; style ca. 3 mm; stigma 2-lobed, 1/2 as long as wide, with 8 papillae. Capsules erect to pendent at maturity, linear, often torulose, slender to somewhat stout, straight to moderately incurved, 12-24(-30) mm. Seeds nearly 2 mm diam., appearing essentially smooth under magnification, narrow marginal ring present or absent. The Navaho used Corydalis aurea medicinally for a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, diarrhea, sores on the hands, stomachaches, menstrual problems, and sore throats, and as a general disinfectant (D. E. Moerman 1986, no subspecies cited).
LEAVES: glaucous. INFLORESCENCE: 8-20 flowered, included or exceeding the leaves. FLOWERS: erect in bud, then spreading; pedicels 1-5 mm long; sepals 1-3 mm long; petals 14-18 mm long, yellow, the spurs 4-9 mm long; stamens ca. 5 mm long. FRUITS: 12-24 mm long, usually curved, erect, spreading or pendant. SEEDS: ca. 1 mm long, with or without marginal ring. NOTES: 2 subsp. in AZ; AK to n. Mex., e to New England. REFERENCES: Holiay, Susan, and Abril Perez. 2001. Commelinaceae. J. Ariz. - Nev. Acad. Sci. Volume 33(1).
Prostrate-ascending annual or biennial, 2-5 dm, the stems sympodial; racemes dense, 1-3 cm, often surpassed by the upper lvs; bracts lanceolate; sep broadly ovate, 1.5-2 mm, erose; cor bright yellow, 13-16 mm, incl. the 4-5 mm spur; outer pet folded distally along the median line into a conspicuous but wingless keel; fr smooth, spreading or drooping, 1.5-2.5 cm; seeds ca 2 mm wide, with a narrow ring-margin; 2n=16. Rocky banks or sandy soil; Que. to Alas., s. to Pa., Mich., n. Ill., and Minn., and widespread in w. U.S. May-July. Our plants are var. aurea; var. occidentalis Engelm., often attr. to our range (as C. montana Engelm.) is more southwestern.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Holiday and Perez 2001
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Native biennial or short lived herb with watery juice, steams branching from taproots, glabrous and glaucous. Leaves: Finely dissected, bipinnate and leaflets are pinnatifid, glaucous. Flowers: Inflorescence a terminal raceme, 8-20 flowered; flowers erect in bud, then spreading on pedicels 1-5 mm long, sepals 1-3 mm long, petals 14-18 mm, yellow, spurs 4-9 mm long, stamens about 5 mm. Fruits: Capsule 12-24 mm long, usually curved, erect, spreading or pendant. Ecology: Found in loose, dry sandy soil, rocky outcrops to moist riparian areas; 2,500-7,500 ft (762-2286 m); flowers March-August. Distribution: Most of N. Amer; most states in the US except for the southeast; south to c MEX. Notes: A distinct biennial due to the golden, two lipped flowers, spreading habit and gray-green, glaucous, compound leaves. Two subspecies in the region: subsp. aurea and subsp. occidentalis. They are distinguished by: in subsp. aurea the fruit is spreading or pendant and the inflorescences are not exceeding the leaves; in subsp. occidentalis the fruit is erect, and the inflorescences exceed the leaves. The former ranges from 2,500-7,500 ft (762-2286 m) and is found in moist riparian areas. The latter is in loose dry soil and is found only from 2500-4000 ft (762-1219 m). Ethnobotany: Used for diarrhea, for sores, as a disinfectant, a stimulant, a rheumatic remedy, for stomachache, for back pain, menstral difficulties, and for sore throat. Etymology: Corydalis is from Latin, corydalus for crested or tufted lark, while aurea means with gold. Synonyms: Capnoides aureum, Corydalis washingtoniana Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015