Annuals, 40-200 cm. Stems glabrous or glabrate (sometimes smooth when dry). Leaves: petiole 0.2-3.1 cm; leaflets 3, green, blade ovate or obovate, (0.4-)1-4.9 × 0.4-2 cm, 1.5-4(-5.5) times as long as wide, margins entire, apex acute to rounded. Racemes 1-1.5 cm (2-3 cm in fruit). Flowers: sepals green, lanceolate, 0.4-1.7 × 0.2-0.7 mm, more than 1.75 times as long as wide, margins entire, glabrous; petals yellow, oblong, 1.4-4.6 × 0.5-1.8 mm; stamens yellow, 2-6 mm; anthers 0.5-1.7 mm; gynophore (reflexed in fruit), 2-12 mm in fruit, usually shorter than pedicel. Schizocarps 1.2-3.3 × 1 mm. Seeds 0.5 × 0.3 mm. 2n = 40.
Wislizenia refracta is known from trans-Pecos Texas, and from the Mojave Desert (San Bernardino County and Little San Bernardino Mountains in Riverside County) in California.
FNA 2010, Kearney and Peebles 1969, McDougal 1973
Duration: Annual Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Herbaceous annuals to perennials, to 200 cm tall, stems much-branching, erect, herbage sub-glabrous, ill-scented. Leaves: Alternate, trifoliate, leaflets oblanceolate to obovate, 1-4 cm long, 0.5-2 cm wide, tips mucronate, margins entire. Flowers: Small, yellow, petals 4, oblong, 1-3 mm long, sepals 4, green, united at the base, 1-2 mm long, to 1 mm wide, stamens 6, much-exserted, anthers also yellow, becoming reflexed in fruit, 2-12 mm long, flowers borne in dense terminal racemes 1-1.5 cm long that become elongate (2-3 cm) in fruit. Fruits: Schizocarps 1-3 mm long and 1 mm wide. Nutlets obovoid to suborbicular, 2-3 mm long, apex rounded and rugose to tuberculate-dentate; fruits occurring in pairs, 2-seeded, each valve closely contracted on its single seed and falling with it like a nutlet, s Ecology: Found on sandy soils, in stream-beds desert scrub, and roadsides, often very abundant, from 1,000-8,000 ft (305-2438 m); flowering March-October. Distribution: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, California. Notes: The elongate, yellow inflorescences appear feathery with the small flower petals and exserted stamens. Kearney and Peebles note that the var. melilotoides as locally abundant in Arizona, however, this variety has since been merged with Wizlizenia refracta. Appears quite similar to some species in the genus Cleome, which is in the same family. Look the the fruits, which are didymous in Wislizenia (see lowest photo), and capsular in Cleome. Ethnobotany: The young plants were boiled for food. Etymology: Wislizenia is named after Frederick Adolf Wislizenus (1810-1889), Army surgeon, explorer, botanist and plant collector of German birth who travelled extensively in the southwestern United States, while refracta means broken. Synonyms: Wislizenia melilotoides, Wislizenia refracta var. melilotoides, Wislizenia scabrida, Wislizenia costellata Editor: LCrumbacher 2011