Cardamine concatenata

An ephemeral spring wildflower of moist woodlands

Cardamine concatenata cutleaf toothwort

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA Synonyms:   Dentaria diphylla

This native herbaceous, perennial member of the mustard family is a spring ephemeral wildflower in moist woodlands. The genus Cardamine includes the bitter cress group of flowers. The cut-leaved toothwort is the most common of four species of toothwort that grow in this area about the same time. The plant grows 8 to 15 inches tall. It is a woodland species commonly growing in rich soil with significant leaf litter.

This species blooms before the leaves are out on the trees and after about two weeks goes to seed. After that the leaves are reabsorbed into the stalk and eventually into the root. This species has a cluster of white to pinkish fragrant flowers on a single stalk. Each flower is about 3/4 inch long and opens fully on warm sunny days. The 4 petals are typical of the mustard family and are arranged in the shape of a cross when the flower is fully opened. Long-tongued bees are the major pollinators of this species, but other insects will visit the flowers for a nectar reward. The fruit is a thin elongated pod up to 4 cm long with a small beak at the end. The name toothwort refers to the root or rhizome that consists of a string of tooth-like segments.

The three deeply lobed stem leaf accounts for the first part of its common name. These leaves are in a whorl of three, partially up the stem. Basal leaves also arise directly from the rhizome, usually after flowering and are of similar form. The plant can spread by growth of the rhizome or by means of seed dispersal.

In various localities, this species is also called: lady's smock, crow’s toes, crinkleroot, milkmaids, pepperroot, pepperwort, and toothache root. It was a common belief that the shape of a plant was a sign of what human ailment that plant could cure. Native Americans did use mashed roots of this plant to treat toothaches. The leaves of the toothwort are edible and said to be tasty if boiled with a little salt. The medical treatments are unlikely and there are better sources of wild food than these leaves.

Cut-leaved toothwort is found throughout the eastern 2/3 of the United States, though it is more abundant in the northern part of that range, but is endangered in Maine and New Hampshire. It is found in all parts of the state (except most north).

There are three other species of toothwort in the state: The large toothwort (Cardamine maxima) has 3 leaves that branch off the stem at different levels in alternating fashion rather than at the same level. The two-leaved toothwort (Cardamine diphylla) has only a pair of stem leaves, rather than three and these are nearly opposite on the stem. The leaves are not as deeply cut as on the other species. The slender toothwort (Cardamine angustata), has broad, long-stalked basal leaves, divided into 3 segments and stem leaves that are divided into three more slender toothed or toothless, lance-shaped segments.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Grows in decidious woods.

Present throughout the state, except northermost counties.

Wetland codes

Flowers late March through early May.

S-rank:  S5 (Secure)
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Cardamine concatenata cutleaf toothwort

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA
Synonyms:   Dentaria diphylla
Cardamine concatenata gallery
Plant Life-Form
perennial forb
Common Names