One More Fumitory


Monday morning I went out to shoot a very special plant (like I did with white trout lily the previous week), and was surprised to find a large number of short-spurred corydalis growing with it (more on the other plant next time).

Also known as yellow corydalis, yellow fumewort, yellow fumitory, and yellow harlequin, Corydalis flavula is a small annual forb, growing to about a foot tall and bearing flowers in racemes. The flowers are about a quarter to a half inch long.

C. flavula is in the Papaveraceae, closely related to the Dicentra species I wrote about a few days ago. Like other species in the fumitory sub-family, it has two very short sepals, two inner petals, and two outer petals. One of the outer petals is spurred and one isn’t. The leaves are typical of the fumitories as well, compound with lobed leaflets, giving a ferny look to the plant.

This might be an example of a disymmetric flower, with two perpendicular planes of symmetry. So help me I’m tempted to go find one and dissect it, because I’ve never been able to get a detailed enough photo. Disymmetric or no, it certainly is complicated.

I’m not sure how many species of Corydalis are found in Maryland. BONAP shows only C. flavula present, while Maryland Biodiversity Project lists one other but has no records for it, and USDA PLANTS shows two others. C. flavula ranges from northern Florida to New York, and west as far as the eastern Great Plains. It’s threatened in Connecticut and Michigan.