Plants perennial, with globose tubers 10-200 mm diam.; periderm 0-0.5 mm. Stems 5-40 cm. Leaves: basal leaves petiolate 6-20 cm, blade linear, 3-14 × 0.5-1.3 cm; cauline leaves sessile, blade linear, 1-10 cm, tapered to slender base. Inflorescences 1-bracteate, rarely with 2 or more bracts; bracts reduced apically, scalelike. Flowers 5-12 mm diam.; sepals 5-7 mm; petals white to pinkish or rose (rarely yellow or orange) or white with pink-lavender candy-stripes, 7-14 mm; ovules 6. Seeds 2-3 mm diam., shiny and smooth; elaisome 1-2 mm. 2n = 12-190. Flowering Mar-Apr. Wetlands, seeps, moist woods, riparian hardwood forests, copses, bluffs, ravines, prairies; 0-1000 m; Ont., Que.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kans., Ky., La., Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., Nebr., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Va., W.Va., Wis.
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
Frequent to common in moist or dry woods in every county of the state. It is extremely variable in all of its parts except the seed. It generally has only 2 stem leaves, but I have one specimen with 3 stem leaves. Stanley Coulter says: "Common with the floral parts multiplied." The dried stem leaves of my specimens vary from 2-25 mm in width and from 5-15 cm in length; some are sessile and others are petiolate. The calyx at fruiting time varies from 5-12 mm long, and the lobes from rounded to acute. I think that some of the wideleaf specimens have been reported as Claytonia caroliniana, which I have not found in Indiana although I have sought for it for years. I once noted a small bird greedily eating the flowers of Claytonia virginica.
Cauline lvs mostly at least 8 times as long as wide and long-tapering to the base, the blade sessile or merging gradually into the short, poorly differentiated petiole, rarely less than 7 cm (petiole included); 2n=12-72+. Rich woods and fields; N.S. to Minn., s. to Ga., La., and Tex. Early spring, disappearing by midsummer. Two weakly defined vars.: var. virginica (C. media, C. robusta), with lvs mostly 5-10(-20) mm wide, and with chromosome numbers based eventually on x=8, is the more n. phase, and var. acutiflora DC. (C. simsii), with the lvs mostly 1-4 mm wide and with chromosome numbers based eventually on x=6, is the more s. phase, but both vars. are well represented in much of our range.
Yellow-fld plants related to var. virginica are locally and sporadically distributed in N.J., Pa., and Md. The oldest name for these is C. virginica f. lutea R. J. Davis, based on plants from Md. These and the Pa. plants occur in mixed and intergrading populations with typical C. virginica. The N.J. plants, at least, occur in wetter, shadier habitats than is typical of C. virginica, and last throughout much of the summer. These have been called f. hammondiae Kalmb. Further study is in order.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.