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Isomeris arborea

Isomeris arborea

Today's photograph from Descanso Gardens is thanks to van swearingen@Flickr (original photo | BPotD Flickr Group Pool). Much appreciated!

The families Cleomaceae (cleome family), Capparaceae (caper family) and Brassicaceae (mustard family) are all closely related. Depending on what reference you read, you may find today's plant, bladderpod spiderflower, in any one of those three families. Traditionally, it is most often placed within the Capparaceae sensu lato (in the broad sense), but I've opted for the Cleomaceae as it forms a well-defined group (scroll up on that page to read the taxonomy of these three families).

Not only is its family under disagreement, but so is its scientific name. I've chosen to use Isomeris arborea as it was used in the Jepson Manual, but the USDA PLANTS database uses Cleome isomeris.

The USDA PLANTS link contains more photographs of the plant, including images of the bladderpods the common name refers to. I might share my photographs of the bladderpods taken in Joshua Tree National Park (this is a plant of the southwest USA and Mexico) in a future BPotD entry.


Aren't Van's photos just dreamy! I love the bokeh.

A lovely photo from a lovely garden. I was a volunteer there in the 70's and it set me on the path of my career in horticulture.

The anthers appear to be tetradynamous in the manner of the Brassicaceae. Is this typical of the Cleomaceae as well?

Apparently not typical, Chris. From The Families of Flowering Plants on Cleomaceae: “Stamens 4-50; tetradynamous (rarely), or not didynamous, not tetradynamous”. I also note that the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group makes special mention of the genus Dipterygium as possibly to be placed in Cleomaceae because (in part) of 6 stamens all equal in length.

this one is really a good one

Sometime around 1980, my biology teacher at San Diego Mesa College - Al Grennan - secured a grant to do a survey of "Isomeris Arborea."
We students - specifically local San Diegans who know our hills, valleys, etc., combed numerous fields.
It has been a long time, but I think the project goal was to establish some data on how the plant reproduced. And we made notes on the remarkable distance between each plant. No birds were ever seen on them, seeds didn't seem to drop and grow etc.
That's as far as we got. But, I still watch the Isomeris with some pride that I was hopefully able to contribute to some study of this remarkable plant.
C. Blair Stokes - San Diego

Thank you for the story, Christopher!

I was just doing some searching for Al Grennan- I took nearly every class he taught in the early 80's. Remarkable man, very very very good teacher. And yes I remember traipsing around looking at the Isomeris arborea during the Califonia Native Plants field trips... However Mr Grennan was on to doing a survey of Compositae when I was at Mesa College. That is a very nice picture of Bladderpod.


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