Thelypodium wrightii

Wright's Thelopodium or Wright's Thelopody
Thelypodium wrightii
SW Canyon near Emory Pass
New Mexico, USA

All of you fellow non-botanists may be asking, "What is he talking about now?"  Thelypody is not a name which leaps from my memory.  But if you are hiking the gullies of the Black Range at higher elevations you can not help but encounter Wright's Thelypody, a.k.a. Wright's Thelypodium (Thelypodium wrightii), at the moment (September 2014).  It is a tall, to six feet, wispy plant with showy flower heads.  We found the specimens shown in these photographs in Southwest Canyon below Emory Pass, on the east side of the Black Range.  Note the long seed pods.  When they are long and narrow like this they are called silique (there are some other attributes which make them silique).   This species is generally found at elevations between 3,600' and 6,900' - these specimens were at about 7,100’. 

This species was first described by Asa Wright in Plantae Wrightianae - Texano - Neo-Mexicanae: An Account of a Collection of Plalnts Made by Charles Wright in…which he published in March of 1852.  This was shortly after Wright had collected the specimen shown to the right, in Texas.

In the United States this species is found in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas (and perhaps Oklahoma).  In Mexico this species is found in Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Hidalgo.

It was first described by Asa Gray in 1852 who named it in honor of Charles Wright, 1811-1885, an important plant collector who collected primarily in Texas (1837-1852), Cuba, Hispaniola, and Connecticut.  Many plants are named in Wright's honor. Gray, described over 7,000 plant species; was an extremely important person in American botany; wrote the "Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States" (a.k.a. Gray's Manual) - published in 1847/48; Co-authored "Flora of North America" with Torrey; etc. etc. - The Asa Gray Award of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists is named for him.

The indigenous peoples used Wright's Thelypody in many applications: as a food source and as a dye used in painting pottery (by the Tewa); in stews with other foods, boiled and pressed into balls of food (to be eaten immediately or stored), and boiled/salted and eaten as greens (by the Pueblo); tied to infant cradles to make them sleep (by the Navajo); as a eye drug (ashes were rubbed into eye lids) and to reduce swelling (by the Navajo), and as a fertilizer (by the Zuni).

Tom Chester, in the Plant Species of the Bright Angel Trail, does a yeoman's job of describing the intricacies of keying plants (this one in particular).  For the record, the plants shown here have six stamens.


Immediately above & both below: Carbonate Creek, Black Range

© Robert Barnes 2018-2023