Plants winter annual or biennial, glaucous, from ± branched caudices. Stems 10-50, prostrate-ascending, 2-3.5 dm. Leaves compound; blade with 3 orders of leaflets and lobes; ultimate lobes elliptic, 1.5 times or more longer than wide, margins incised, apex subapiculate. Inflorescences racemose, 10-20(-30)-flowered, primary racemes shorter than to slightly exceeding leaves, secondary racemes fewer flowered; bracts elliptic to linear, 4-10 × 1-2 mm, rarely larger, margins often denticulate toward apex, distal bracts usually much reduced. Flowers at first erect, later reflexed; pedicel 5-10 mm; sepals ovate to attenuate-ovate, to 1-3 mm, margins often sinuate or dentate; petals pale to bright yellow; spurred petal 13-16 mm, spur straight or slightly incurved, 4-5 mm, apex subglobose, crest low and incised or absent, marginal wing moderately to well developed, unspurred outer petal 9-11 mm, crest same as that of spurred petal; inner petals oblanceolate, 8-10 mm, blade wider than claw and more prominently winged toward apex, claw 3.5-4.5 mm; nectariferous spur 2-3 mm; style ca. 3 mm; stigma 2-lobed, 1/2 as long as wide, with 8 papillae. Capsules erect to pendent at maturity, linear, often torulose, slender to somewhat stout, straight to moderately incurved, 12-24(-30) mm. Seeds nearly 2 mm diam., appearing essentially smooth under magnification, narrow marginal ring present or absent. The Navaho used Corydalis aurea medicinally for a variety of ailments, including rheumatism, diarrhea, sores on the hands, stomachaches, menstrual problems, and sore throats, and as a general disinfectant (D. E. Moerman 1986, no subspecies cited).
LEAVES: glaucous. INFLORESCENCE: 8-20 flowered, included or exceeding the leaves. FLOWERS: erect in bud, then spreading; pedicels 1-5 mm long; sepals 1-3 mm long; petals 14-18 mm long, yellow, the spurs 4-9 mm long; stamens ca. 5 mm long. FRUITS: 12-24 mm long, usually curved, erect, spreading or pendant. SEEDS: ca. 1 mm long, with or without marginal ring. NOTES: 2 subsp. in AZ; AK to n. Mex., e to New England. REFERENCES: Holiay, Susan, and Abril Perez. 2001. Commelinaceae. J. Ariz. – Nev. Acad. Sci. Volume 33(1).