Bladderpod (Popweed)
Lesquerella species; Mustard Family (Cruciferae)

The seeds of all species of bladderpod (Lesquerella spp.) contain oils that are rich in hydroxy fatty acids (HFA), which is an important raw material used to make resins, waxes, nylons, plastics, corrosion inhibitors, coatings, lubricating greases, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The primary source of HFA has historically been the castor bean. However, castor bean seed meal is so toxic that all domestic castor oil production has ceased. Instead, we annually import in excess of 45,000 metric tons, at a cost exceeding $45 million.

Because bladderpod HFA is actually superior to that produced from Castor beans, it is currently being evaluated for its potential as a cultivated crop.

Some 15 species of bladderpods grow in Texas, all with pea-shaped seed pods that rupture with a noticeable report when crushed. This characteristic has earned it the common name popweed. The flowers have four yellow petals, arranged in the form of a Maltese cross.

This specimen was found in Fern Bluff Park on April 31, 2001. Some species of bladderpods bloom from February through June (see esp. Gordon's Bladderpod, L. gordonii), but most of those found in the Texas hill country bloom no later than the end of May.

Oddly enough, very little, except for terse descriptions of various species, is said about this plant in any of the usual wildflower references. You may want to read the comments in "Southwestern and Texas Wildflowers", Pederson Field Guide 31 (Niehaus, Ripper & Savage, 1984), page 144; "Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country" (Enquist, 1987), pages 40-41; "Texas Wildflowers" (Loughmiller,1984), page 88; "Wildflowers of Texas" (Ajilvsgi, 1984), page 167; "Sagebrush Country, A Wildflower Sanctuary" (Taylor, 1992), page 92; It is not mentioned in "Wildflowers" (Coffey, 1993), or in the Pederson Field Guides to Edible Wild Plants, E/CNA (Peterson, 1977) or E/C Medicinal Plants and Herbs, 2nd Ed. (Foster, Duke, 2000). 

In the photo at left, the seed pods are the reddish globes just below and right of center.

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