Perennial herb 20 - 40 cm tall Stem: upright, shortly hairy in upper parts. Flowers: in a loose, branched cluster, long-stalked, white to pink, 1 - 2 cm long. Sepals four, brownish green, to 3 mm long. Petals four, much longer than sepals. Stamens six. Fruit: a narrow pod, upright, ascending, 2 - 4 cm long, cylindrical. Rhizome: thick, constricted at intervals. The segments are 2 - 3 cm long. Basal leaves: tend to fall off before flowering. Stem leaves: usually three, whorled, above mid-stem, stalked, deeply lobed into three narrowly oblong to lance-shaped segments (lateral segments often divided, giving the appearance of a five-segmented leaf), lobes 6 cm long, 1 cm wide, often sharply toothed.
Similar species: The similar Cardamine diphylla differs by having only two nearly opposite leaves and leaf segments that are broadly egg-shaped.
Flowering: mid-March to late May
Habitat and ecology: Locally abundant in mesic woods.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: The tooth-like projections on the underground stems give this plant its name.
Etymology: Cardamine comes from the Greek word kardamon, which refers to plants in the cress family. Concatenate means "linking together."
Rhizome constricted at intervals, the segments 2-3 cm; stems 2-4 dm, shortly spreading-hairy above; basal and cauline lvs similar, the former usually absent at anthesis, the latter typically in a whorl of 3 above the middle of the stem, deeply 3-parted or 3-foliolate, the segments linear or lanceolate, subentire to laciniate-toothed, the lateral segments often, the terminal segment sometimes deeply bifid, the whole lf appearing 5-parted; sep 5-8 mm; pet pale lavender, 12-19 mm; frs 2-4 cm; 2n=128, 240, 256. Moist rich woods; Me. and s. Que. to Minn., s. to Fla., La., and Okla. Apr., May, a little earlier than nos. 1 [Cardamine diphylla (Michx.) A. W. Wood] and 5. (Dentaria laciniata) [Cardamine angustata O. E. Schulz] Some possible hybrids with no. 5 have been called Dentaria anomala Eames.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Infrequent to frequent in rich woods throughout the state. This species prefers moist soil and deep leaf mold. The variability of the plants has led authors to assign specific, varietal, and hybrid names to these variations. I can do no better than to quote J. M. Coulter (Ann. Rept. Geol. Surv. Indiana 6: 234. 1875) who recognized these variations and said in his flora of Jefferson County: "The leaves vary from almost entire to finely dissected. Sometimes there are three leaves in a whorl; sometimes these leaves are alternate; sometimes there are four alternate leaves; often there are but two leaves either opposite or alternate. In fact there is no kind of division or position of leaves which is not represented in this species." The preceding observation applies to my specimens but I doubt that hybridization is responsible for such variations as the alternate character of the leaves, since, in our area, there are no alternate-leaved species nor entire-leaved species in the genus as now known, with which D. laciniata could hybridize. I believe it is best to regard the genus as a mutating one and some of the aberrant specimens as examples of reversion to ancestral forms.