cutleaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)
Cardamine laciniata (Muhl. ex Willd.) Alph. Wood
Dentaria concatenata Michx.
Dentaria concatenata Michx. var. coalescens Fernald
Dentaria laciniata Muhl. ex Willd.
Dentaria laciniata Muhl. ex Willd. var. integra (O.E. Schulz) Fernald
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of cutleaved
toothwort is Cardamine concatenata (Michx.) Sw. Some authorities
have merged the toothworts into Genus Cardamine (bitter cress),
therefore, the scientific name of cutleaf toothwort is Cardamine con-
catenata. Many botanists and botanical reference works, however, still
refer to this species as Dentaria laciniata Muhl. ex Willd. The Atlas of
Virginia Flora reports three additional species of Cardamine in addi-
tion to Cardamine concatenata: 1) Cardamine hirsuta 2) Cardamine
parviflora var. arenicola, and 3) Cardamine pensylvanica Muhlenberg.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This native perennial plant is about 4-8" tall, producing from its
rootstock both basal leaves and fertile shoots with cauline leaves. The
central stalk is glabrous or slightly pubescent and unbranched.
Leaves: The basal leaves are separate from the fertile shoots; they help to
store energy for next year's fertile shoots. A fertile shoot consists of a sin-
gle flowering stalk with a whorl of 3 leaves. Each leaf is up to 3" long and
across, but palmately cleft into 3-5 narrow lobes with dentate teeth along
the margins. The basal leaves have a similar appearance to the cauline
leaves; both types of leaves are largely hairless.
Flowers: It terminates into a cyme or short raceme of white flowers. This
inflorescence is rather floppy; the flowers open up and become more erect
in the presence of sunshine on warm spring days. Each flower is about ½"
across when fully open, consisting of 4 white petals, 4 green or purplish
green sepals, several stamens with conspicuous yellow anthers, and a sin-
gle pistil. The petals are lanceolate-oblong and sometimes tinted with pink
or light purple. The sepals are oblong and shorter than the petals. The
slender pedicels are at least as long as the flowers. The flowers are quite
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by an elongated seedpod that has a
short beak (i.e., a silique); this seedpod is held more or less erect. The
seeds are arranged in a single row within the seedpods; they are oval-
shaped and somewhat flattened.
Roots: The root system produces fleshy rhizomes that are jointed and
knobby; they are parallel to the surface of the ground and fairly shallow.
In addition to these rhizomes and their secondary roots, the root system
produces small fleshy tubers. This plant often forms vegetative colonies
from its spreading rhizomes; it also reproduces by seed.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Cutleaved toothwort propogates itself
by reseeding and vegetative production through rhizomes.
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include deciduous mesic woodlands, flood-
plain woodlands, and wooded bluffs. The presence of this species in a
woodlands indicates that its soil has never been plowed under or sub-
jected to heavy construction activities. However, this species can survive
some disturbance caused by occasional grazing and less disruptive activ-
ities of human society. When the introduced Alliaria petiolata (garlic
mustard) invades a woodlands, this is one of the spring wildflowers that
declines in abundance.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Cutleaved toothwort typically grows in
dappled sunlight before the trees leaf out; it prefers moist to mesic con-
ditions and a rich loamy soil with decaying leaves.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs during
mid-spring and lasts about 2 weeks. Cutleaf toothwort develops quickly
and is one of the earlier spring wildflowers of woodlands. The foliage
turns yellow and fades away by the end of spring.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Cutleaved toothwort is primarily a
species of the eastern portions of the United States and Canada (except-
ing the Maritime provinces of Canada). It extends from Florida to Quebec
and westard through the Ohio Valley and through most of the Prairie states
north to Onario (but not the Prairie provinces of Canada). It is not natur-
ally found in the Rocky Mountain states, southwestern states, or the far
west nor northwest Pacific states of provinces.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar of the flowers attracts both
long-tongued and short-tongued bees, including honey bees, bumblebees,
mason bees, cuckoo bees (Nomadine), miner bees, Halictid bees, and
Andrenid bees. Less often, the nectar of the flowers attracts early spring
butterflies and Bombylius major (giant bee fly). Short-tongued bees also
collect pollen from the flowers. The caterpillars of the butterfly Pieris
napi oleraceae (mustard white) feed on the foliage of Dentaria spp. (tooth-
worts); however, this butterfly has not been observed in Illinois since the
late 19th century. However, it still exists in Wisconsin. The tubers of Tooth-
worts were a minor food source of Ectopistes migratorius (passenger
pigeon); this bird species became extinct during the early 20th century.
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