Fumewort is a non-native perennial with short-lived purplish to pink tubular flowers on racemes raising just above the leaves, blooming in late April to early May in dappled sun before the leaf canopy of larger trees fills out. The stems branch profusely on the plant which can be from 1 to 1.5 feet high.
Leaves are pinnately divided, deeply cleft, with from one to several orders of leaflets on the stalk. the lobes usually crenate at the broad tip. Lower leaves long-stalked.
The inflorescence is a raceme held above the leaves.
Flowers are bilaterally symmetric about 1 plane. There are four petals, placed in whorls of two. The outer petals are dissimilar, each with a median keel but one extends basally with a long spur to the back. There are two inner petals that are smaller and join together at the front of the flower. The two outer petals enclose all the reproductive parts and the two smaller inner petals. Sepals are usually not present. There are six stamens grouped in two bundles of 3. They adhere to the inner surface of the spurred petal and near the stamen filament bundle is a nectar spur that is inside the outer spurred petal. The stigma of the style has a pair of lobes resembling whitish horns. Flower color can vary from mauve and purple to reddish and white but all on one plant will be the same. Flowers are held at an angle, on a slender stalk, with the throat downward, the stalk usually longer that 10 mm.
Seed: Mature flowers form elongated 2-chambered capsules of small brown seeds which are wind dispersed at maturity.
Habitat: The plant grows from a tuber and dies back to dormancy in late spring and should thus be considered a spring ephemeral. The plant also self-seeds. It grows best in well drained moist soils in part to full shade under the tree canopy.
Names: The genus Corydalis, is a Greek word for 'crested lark'. Here the flowers have spurs like a lark. The species, solida, is from solido, meaning to make whole, which may refer to its medicinal qualities. The author names for the plant classification are: The first to classify was 'L.' which refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. His work was updated by ‘Clairv.’, who is Joseph Philippe de Clairville (1742-1830), French botanist whose main research was in Switzerland. His main publication was Helvetische Entomologie. The Fumitory family also contains Dutchman's Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria.
Comparisons: Most Corydalis are distinguished by whether they are biennial or perennial and by characteristics of the flower such as color and shape of the outer and inner petals. C. solida has no sepals and flower stalks longer than 10 mm to distinguish it from native tuberous Corydalis species.
Above: 1st photo - The flowers appear on a raceme standing above the leaves, each flower an an angle on a slender stalk with the throat downward. These flowers are more pinkish than those shown below. 2nd photo - The two outer petals enclose all the reproductive parts and the two smaller inner petals. The stamens do not protrude from the tube, the large stigma of the pistil has a pair of lobes, or horns at the tip.
Below: The coloration of this plant in the Garden is a deeper purple, some appear more pinkish as shown above.
Below: The pinnately divided leaves which form a dense cluster below the flower racemes.
Notes: Fumewort is not native to Minnesota but is usually found only in New England where it was introduced from Europe. It is a Eurasian species that is widely cultivated and sometimes escapes from Gardens. This particular species was not listed on the 1986 Garden census. At that time and previously Corydalis sempervirens was listed and that species also appeared on Martha Crone's 1951 census. She recorded planting Corydalis sempervirens in 1934 and Eloise Butler had planted it from seed as early as 1909. C. sempervirens, which is native, has a much paler flower color and usually retains its sepals. The three species of Corydalis native to Minnesota are C. aurea, Golden Corydalis, C. micrantha, Slender Fumewort, and C. sempervirens, Pale Corydalis.
Medicinal: Members of the Corydalis genus contain numerous alkaloids in the roots, which have been used in herbal medicines, in combination with other species, to calm nervousness and other similar disorders.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Identification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"