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Dimorphocarpa wislizenii
Dimorphocarpa wislizenii (Spectacle Pod)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy disturbed areas, openings. Spring.
East of Bluff, Utah, March 31, 2007.

Spectacle Pod can be found along sandy roadsides and trails.  Its growth pattern is open and weedy looking, but it has attractive, brilliant white flowers and very conspicuous and amusing seed pods (see below).  It is typically 8 to 20 inches tall.

The Greek genus name translates as "two-formed fruit".  The specific epithet is for Friedrich Wislizenus (1810-1889) who immigrated to St. Louis from Germany and traveled and collected plants in the West.  Wislizenus collected the first specimen of Dimorphocarpa wislizenii in New Mexico ("in sandy soil near Valverde and Fray Cristobal, north of Jornada del Muerto") on July 31, 1846 and his friend George Engelmann of St. Louis named the plant Dithyrea wislizenii in 1848.  It was given its present name by Harvard Professor and Brassicaceae expert, Reed C. Rollins, in 1979.  Rollins also named the genus, which has only four species, all in the warm south-western and south-central United States and northern Mexico.  (More biographical information about Wislizenus.)  (Quotation and most information from Intermountain Flora.)

Dimorphocarpa wislizenii
Dimorphocarpa wislizenii (Spectacle Pod)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy disturbed areas, openings. Spring.
East of Bluff, Utah, March 31, 2007.

Buds, stems, leaves, and seeds are tomentose, i.e., covered in a tangle of thick hairs.

Dimorphocarpa wislizenii
Dimorphocarpa wislizenii (Spectacle Pod)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy disturbed areas, openings. Spring.
East of Bluff, Utah, March 31, 2007.

Seed pods are often very significant, even crucial, in identifying plants.  Many Mustards and Peas, for instance, cannot be identified without an examination of the pods.  Dimorphocarpa wislizenii's spectacle-like seed pods make identifying this plant easy.

Dimorphocarpa wislizenii (Spectacle Pod)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert. Sandy disturbed areas, openings. Spring.
East of Bluff, Utah, March 31, 2007.

As this photograph shows, Dimorphocarpa wislizenii produces flowers, goes to seed, and continues elongating and flowering as the seeds reach mature size.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Dimorphocarpa wislizenii