Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday: A Side Of Mustard

Cardamine diphylla
I am just now starting to enjoy the condiment mustard, but, I have loved the mustard family of plants for a very long time. It's also known as the cabbage family, crucifers and officially as Brassicaceae. It's an economically important family that includes --cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale.  

But, this post isn't about vegetables, it's about one of my favorite spring blooming mustards~the toothwort! Which by the way, is completely edible!
Cutleaf toothwort's terminal clustered flowers are white, pink, or pale purple.
I love toothworts.


Cutleaf toothwort was the first wildflower to catch my eye the spring after we moved here. It was a very busy time in my life, I had a pre-schooler and a growing therapy practice but, there was always time to explore a new garden on a warm spring morning. I recall being completely charmed by the nodding bell flowers that grew here and there on the weedy lawn. They imprinted on my heart and every spring my winter tired spirit soars when I see the budding flowers.
It plays well with other wildflowers
Of the four toothworts  found in Tennessee, the cutleaf toothwort is the happiest in my garden.  It has formed small colonies and usually begins blooming in late February here in my Zone7 garden, elsewhere in it's native range (Eastern US and parts of southern Canada) it might not appear until April.  It prefers moist forested woodlands with lots of decaying leaves and dappled sunlight. It plays well with other spring ephemerals and quietly disappears by early summer leaving space for summer blooming plants to do their thing.



Taxonomist, here after known as those who are often ignored, have merged the toothworts into the genus Cardamine (Bitter Cress), so now, the scientific name of Cutleaf Toothwort is Cardamine concatenata. Another name change that I drag my feet on~Dentaria flows off the tongue much easier...and makes sense when you consider that the dens in the name refers directly to the many tooth like characteristic of this wildflower.  In fact, the name toothwort refers to the plant’s toothed, or scaly, rootstock. 

But, Cardamine it is!
Showy flowers have ultra-violet nectar guides to attract pollinators
Since spring ephemerals bloom very early they have had to adapt to the vagaries of weather and pollinator activity, consequently, toothworts in particular have adapted to attract a variety of pollinators. They are nectar producers and are visited by 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. (source). In a warm year they might even be visited by Spring Azure butterfly.
the name crucifer is in reference to the suggestion of a cross (crucifix) shape formed by the 4 spreading petals.

This has not been a warm year! Pollinators haven't been out and about very often. Not to worry, this clever plant has several non-showy flowers that can self-pollinate.

Don't you think nature is amazing! We must do more to take care of it.
xoxogail 

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky. 


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

40 comments:

  1. Hi Gail, i learned a lot today. I am familiar with this family or the Crucifers, but i haven't heard of toothworts. The family resides happily in colder climes so we are not favored to see their flowers, but we devour their leaves. We are in constant importation of their seeds for vegetable production because they don't bolt here. But i concur, their flowers are all lovely, including this toothwort which is alien to me. But among them i really love the kale or ornamental cabbage, which also grow only in our very few uplands. sigh!

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  2. Hi Gail,
    Such beautiful photos! I especially like the first one.
    Interesting information, too.
    Thanks for hosting this meme.
    Have a wonderful week!
    Lea
    Lea's Menagerie

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  3. I do love wildflowers...such amazing things about them...this is one I should have and will remedy that.

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    Replies
    1. Once you have one, you'll soon have others!

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  4. "Those who are often ignored", good one, Gail!!!! What a lovely plant to have settled so nicely at Clay and Limestone. It is enchanting, as is your wildlife friendly garden.
    xoxoxo
    Frances

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  5. Great info on toothwort.

    Along the way from Paris to Provence, there are fields of mustard (as in Dijon). I've also seen fields of mustard in bloom in Sonoma and Napa Valley. I believe there are mustard festivals in California wine country.

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  6. Lots of mustard blooming around here now but I have never see anything as pretty as that little toothwort!

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  7. I'll have a side of Mustard too please! I'm now on the hunt...

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    Replies
    1. I hope you find them! They are wonderful in a woodland garden.

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  8. Lovely plants with such delicate flowers, I'd not realized how pretty they could be.

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  9. As they are good for pollinators I'm going to check them out for around here for our apiary. Always looking for new plants to keep our bees happy:)

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  10. I didn't realize Dentaria was now Cardamine. In this post from last year I call one toothwort Dentaria and the other Cardamine. Oh well.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I do believe I have seen this Toothwort in my woods, but definitely in walks here and there in the area. Apparently, it can be commonly found all the way west to North Dakota and Texas, although it's native to all lower 48 U.S. states. Yes, Dentaria is much easier to remember. ;-)

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  12. What a pretty wildflower! We also have a couple of toothworts native to the West. I've seen them flowering on Mount Rainier, and they're also quite pretty. My post today is about my Marsh Marigold.

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  13. I don't know if we have them here. I've never seen them, but perhaps, I wasn't looking close enough.~~Dee

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    1. It's native to OK but not sure which counties.

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  14. You bet nature is amazing. I am hopeful to see such when it warms up this weekend. Here there is hope for spring. At least it isn't snowing today. Happy WW.

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  15. Spring beauties are usually the first native wildflowers I see but followed closely by the cut-leaf toothworts. Ours are not blooming yet--just noticed one leaf today. You must have a lot warmer weather in Tennessee! Thank you for the informative post.

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    Replies
    1. Our winters are pretty mild, but no matter what the leaves arrive in February and they can bloom anytime after that...

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  16. Gail, I was thinking of you at Canada Blooms when I saw some Forsythia silk branches that lit up! For some, the bright yellow is simply not enough. So lovely to see your blossoms. It's one of those springs that seems reluctant to start here. A few more flurries in the forecast. Thank goodness for my southern blogger buddies.
    B.
    p.s Going to Quebec?

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    Replies
    1. No, not going to GWA...but hope to attend Fling when it's in Toronto.

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  17. How pretty that toothwort is! I have a weakness for small/tiny flowers. I kind of like to say Cardamine, but I see what you mean about the root Dens. All the name changing that goes on in the taxonomic world is kind of annoying! :) I always learn something here. Thanks for continuing to host WW! ~ Daricia PS I was slow to acquire a taste for mustard, too, but once I discovered the grainy Maille, I was hooked!

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  18. Hi Gail, I put my link in this morning, but did not have time to read your post yet. What a sweet spring flower your toothwort is! I enjoyed your photos and loving words about the plant, now that I made it back.

    I want to get more ephemerals native to our area, but they seem to be hard to find. I suppose the fact that they go dormant has something to do with that.

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  19. The pictures are outstanding and the information was very informative. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  20. Very pretty little wildflower, Gail. I tried to grow a Cardamine unsuccessfully last year, but I pull lots of an introduced one, C. hirsute, also known as artillery weed or other names related to its ability to propel seeds explosively into your face. There is a pretty pink one out here in Washington called C. nuttallii, I've never seen it though. I just love ephemerals, they are great in a climate consisting of a wet and a dry season like here in the PNW. The Spring Beauties do that well here but are not blooming yet.

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    1. We have that wet/dry climate thing going, too...and you're right, it's perfect for the ephemerals.

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  21. Such a lovely little wildflower! I like the way it opens up to really call attention to itself in the last photo. Our snow is beginning to melt, so maybe one of these days I'll see some wildflowers here; hope to join in again next month!

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    1. You have had a lot of winter! See you next month.

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  22. Gorgeous! I have just become acquainted with Dentaria/Cardamine and have added those to my shortlist of to-grow plants. I didn't know they were edible, but I think they're too pretty to snack on. I'll just have to eat a bratwurst with German mustard and pretend...

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    1. I won't be eating them either...there's plenty of Kale and I found a mustard I love Pale Ale and Honey Spice that would taste great with bratwurst

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  23. Lovely pictures, lovely wildflowers.

    Forgive my lateness, but my Wildflower Wednesday post is up...on Thursday. Happy gardening.

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  24. We had March lilies at the beginning of the month. Now fading as we move into autumn.

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  25. Such a sweet little flower ... I wish they would grow here!

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  26. I've been enjoying the toothworts this spring, cut-leaf toothwort in particular! I didn't know they were edible, but it figures...

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  27. I think we have Mustard plant in Bulgaria. We call it Sinap. And use also for lung problems.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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