Physaria alpestris Washington Twinpod
This is the plant that started it all. I met these bizarre pods on a hike at Red Top in 2009. I had no idea what they were. Hollow plastic-like, they rattled noisily when fingered. Someone suggested I post them to Flickr to see if they could be identified. Sure enough I had a hint within a few hours and using the on-line resources of the Herbarium at the University of Washington Burke Museum I was able to make an id. As a member of the mustard family they are one of dozens of confusing and challenging members of this family in the dry side of the Cascades and east slope uplands.
The flower of this plant is unexpected. Bright yellow blooms on long stems straggle along the rocky soils. The leaves are soft and slightly furry. The stems of the flowers can be so long that the pods, when they appear, are far removed from the leaves as if they were not associated with each other.
This plant made me appreciate that no one book can serve to easily aid my knowledge. I currently have three field guides for plants in this region and there are still gaps that must be filled by using the Herbariums on-line photo collection.