Two is company, four is a party, three is a crowd. One is a wanderer.
- James Thurber
"One is a Wanderer"
Last week I shared a few photographs of wildflowers that I had recently found in bloom at Mission Creek Woodland Park. One of these species was Spring Cress (Cardamine bulbosa). Spring Cress
Spring Cress is a member of the Mustard family (Brassicaceae). Like all members of this family, its flowers have four petals. Spring Cress flowers are either white or pink and measure 1/2 to 1 inch across.
|Spring Cress - note alternate leaves|
Spring Cress has both basal and alternate leaves. The leaves areonly 0.5 to 1.5 inches long. Basal leaves are rounded or kidney-shaped. Leaves on the stem are oval or lanceolate; they may have smooth margins or be coarsely toothed.
|Spring Cress - note white flowers and toothed leaves|
Spring Cress plants grow up to 24 inches tall, but are more commonly 6 to 12 inches. In Michigan, the species is found only in the Lower Peninsula, mostly in the southern half of the peninsula. Like many woodland plants that are found in Michigan, this species is found only in eastern North America - east of a line running from Manitoba to Texas.
|Spring Cress- note flowers with four petals|
Bloom Time: April – May
Spring Cress is not the only Cardamine species that can be found in wet soils. Pennsylvania Bittercress (Cardamine pensylvanica) also grows in swamps, wet woodlands, meadows, and along springs.
|Pennsylvania Bittercress - note small white flowers and compound leaves|
Pennsylvania Bittercress is best identified by its leaves. It has compound leaves, but the separate leaflets often grow together along the stem (especially the three leaflets closest to the end of the leaf).
|Pennsylvania Bittercress - A closer view of a compound leaf|
Like all Cardamine species, Pennsylvania Bittercress has flowers with four petals. The plant's small white flowers measure less than 1/4 inch across. This species is found across almost all of North America; it has not been recorded in Nunavut or Arizona. In Michigan it is widely distributed across the state. I suspect it can be found in every county, but has only been recorded in sixty-three of the state's eighty-three counties.
Bloom Time: May - July
The third Cardamine species that I have found in the Mt. Pleasant area is Cardamine diphylla. It has several common names including Broad-leaved Toothwort, Two-leaved Toothwort, and Crinkleroot. This species likes rich moist soils, but does not grow in wetlands like the previous two species. Instead, it is found mainly in moist deciduous and coniferous woods.
|Broad-leaved Toothwort - note opposite leaves and flowers with four petals|
Broad-leaved Toothwort is found throughout most of Michigan with the exception of the oak and pine barrens in the northeast part of the Lower Peninsula. Nationally, it is found in every state east of the Mississippi River, except Florida, and west into Missouri and Iowa. It is also found in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. These plants spread from their roots and often form dense colonies.
Broad-leaved Toothwort plants grow six to sixteen inches tall. The plants have a pair of compound leaves with three leaflets with coarsely toothed margins. The leaves are arranged opposite or nearly opposite on the plant's stem.
|Broad-leaved Toothwort - a closer view of the flowers|
Broad-leaved Toothwort flowers bloom in April to early June. Each flower has four white petals and measures about 1/2 inch across. The flowers are arranged in a raceme or loose cluster at the top of the plant's main stem.
Height: 6-16" tall
Habitat: rich moist woodlands
Flower Color: white
Bloom Time: April - early June
The fourth and most common Cardamine species that I find is the Cut-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata). This species is more broadly distributed across eastern North America than the Broad-leaved Toothwort. It is found as far west as a line running from eastern North Dakota to eastern Texas. Again it is widely distributed across Michigan, but is absent from the northeast Lower Peninsula
|Cut-leaved Toothwort - a closeup view of the flowers|
The leaves of Cut-leaved Toothwort grow in a whorl of three leaves. Each of these leaves is deeply "cut" into three to five lobes with toothed margins. The plants grow 8 to 15 inches tall. Cut-leaved Toothwort can often be found in dense colonies - it reproduces both by seeds and rhizomes.
|Cut-leaved Toothwort - note deeply lobed leaves|
Like the previous three Cardamines, this species identifies itself as a member of the Brassicaceae (Mustard family) by having flowers with four white petals. These flowers are about 1/2 inch wide and an inch long.
Height: 8-15" tall
Habitat: moist woodlands, floodplain forests, shoreline
Flower Color: white
Bloom Time: March - May