foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of foamflower is
Tiarella cordifolia L. Plants are in the same family as and somewhat sug-
gestive of Heuchera, Tellima and Mitella. Sometimes commonly called
false miterwort because of its similarity to Mitella (miterwort). There are
three recognized varieties of Tiarella cordifolia - variety austrina, variety
collina, and variety cordifolia. The Atlas of Virginia Flora lists only Tiarell
cordifolia without variety. For the Nature Guide, variety cordifolia will be
presumed. Further research will be needed to determine accuracy of variety.
Tiarella is the diminutive of tiara for "a tiara" or "turban," referring to the
pistil, like Mitella, to which name Miterwort probably belongs; also diminu-
tive of Greek tiara (a small crown) referring to the fruit. Cordifolia in Latin
means with "heart-shaped leaves."
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Foamflower is a native perennial herbaceous plant that is clump-
forming and spreads rapidly by runners (stolons) to form dense, 1-2' wide
clumps of foliage. Erect stems range in height from 4" - 14". It has basal
Leaves: Leaves are semi-glossy, ivy-like or heart-shaped, 3-5 lobed leaves
(4" across) rise directly from the stolons, with a deeply indented base, long petioles, and a cut and coarsely dentate outer margin. Leaves may have red-
dish variegation along the veins. Foliage is evergreen in mild winters, often turning reddish bronze in autumn and winter.
Flowers: Foamflower has tiny, white (occasionally pale pink) flowers with
very long stamens (foamy texture of stamens results in the common name)
appear in airy racemes in spring for about 6 weeks on numerous, erect, wiry, mostly leafless flower stems which rise well above the foliage clump to a
height of 10-12". Flower buds are pinkish. Petals narrow and elongate and
stamens numerous and elongate, yellow anthers sometimes slightly pinkish.
Fruit/Seeds: Ellipsoid capsules 0.5-1.1 cm. long with 4 - 15 seeds.
Roots: Foamflower spreads by rhizomes and runners.
REGENERTION PROCESS: Foamflower propogates itself by reseed-
ing and by vegetative spread (runners).
HABITAT TYPES: Foamflower is found in old, rich woods.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Foamflower grows in average, medium,
well-drained soil in partial sun to full shade. It prefers organically rich,
moisture-retentive soils,, particularly loamy soil. Wet soils, particularly
in winter, can be fatal, however. Soil should not be allowed to dry out.
Foamflowers prefer to be grown just a little below the surface in humus-
rich, well-drained soil. They don't mind some moisture but prefer to be
dry in the winter. In the wild they grow in deciduous forests where there
is a lot of leaf clutter, so they tend to grow upward over time.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Blooms first appear in mid spring and
continue into late spring (April to May).
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Foramflower is primarily a species that
occurs east of the Mississippi River, beginning in Georgia and extending
north to Quebec and extending west only into the upper mid-west (Wis-
consin and Minnesota). In Canada it extends only as far west as Ontario.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: There is insufficient information pertain-
ing to the fauna association for foamflower.
The whole plant is diuretic, hepatic, lithontripic and tonic. It is used in the
treatment of bladder and liver problems and also indigestion and dyspepsia.
An infusion of the root and leaves has been used to help small children put
on weight and also as a wash for a baby's sore back. The whole plant is rich
in tannin and this is probably the medically active ingredient. A tea made
from the leaves is diuretic. It has been used as a mouthwash and as a wash
for sore eyes. The tea is held in the mouth to remove a white coating from
the tongue. A tea made from the roots is diuretic and is used in the treat-
ment of children with diarrhoea or sore mouths. The crushed roots can be
used as a poultice on wounds.
Foamflower can be used as a ground cover plant. Tiarellas are at home in
moist wood- land environments. In the garden they make wonderful carpets
of intricate leaves in a variety of shapes and with distinct markings. For a
long period from spring into summer, the profusion of foamy flowers can
be appreciated up close or from a distance. Foam flower is oftne used as a
groundcover or edger in a shady border or woodland garden.
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