Corydalis flavula (Raf.) DC.

Pale Corydalis


CC = 3
CW = 3
MOC = 68

© SRTurner

Family - Fumariaceae

Habit - Annual, occasionally biennial, taprooted forb.

Corydalis_flavula_roots.jpg Roots.

© SRTurner

Stems - Loosely ascending, to 30 cm, branched and sometimes multiple, from a spreading base, glabrous, glaucous, often reddish.


© DETenaglia

Leaves - Basal and alternate, the lower leaves with the petiole 4-8 cm long, the upper leaves usually sessile. Leaf blades 2 or 3 times compound and lobed, 1-4 cm long, with 5 or 7 pinnae, these deeply several-lobed, the ultimate segments linear to narrowly oblong or less commonly broadly elliptic, mostly sharply pointed at the tip, green or pale and glaucous.


© DETenaglia

Corydalis_flavula_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial surface.

© SRTurner

Corydalis_flavula_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial surface.

© SRTurner

Inflorescence - Racemes, to 8cm long, mostly not extending past the foliage, those with open flowers 6-12-flowered racemes, those with cleistogamous flowers 1-5-flowered clusters. Flower stalks (except sometimes in cleistogamous flowers) 9-22 mm long, ascending at flowering, often pendent at fruiting, subtended by leaflike bracts, these to 1 cm long, 7 mm broad, acute.

Corydalis_flavula_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence, side view.

© SRTurner

Corydalis_flavula_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescence, top view.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals 1-2 mm long, ovate to ovate-triangular, membranous and white to pale yellow. Corollas bilaterally symmetrical, yellow, the upper outer petal 7-9 mm long, the spur (except in cleistogamous flowers) 1.5-2.0 mm long, slightly curved downward, the concave apical portion usually with an irregular, wavy or toothed crest. Petals 4, unequal, slightly joined at base, glabrous. Inner 2 petals connate around the 6 stamens. Stamens diadelphous. Style persistent, slender to relatively stout, the stigma 2-lobed, flattened and somewhat fan-shaped, with 4 or more commonly 8 winglike papillae.

Corydalis_flavula_flower.jpg Flower.

© DETenaglia

Corydalis_flavula_flower2.jpg Flowers.

© DETenaglia

Corydalis_flavula_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© DETenaglia

Fruit - Capsules 14-25 mm long, relatively straight, glabrous. Seeds 1.9-2.1 mm long, the surface finely pebbled, the sharply angled rim with a minute marginal ridge.

Flowering - April - May.

Habitat - Bottomland forests, ravines, bases of bluffs, streambanks, shaded roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Several other species of Corydalis. The foliage is similar to that of Dicentra.

Other info. - This delicate and inconspicuous species is one of Missouri's springtime ephermerals, blooming early and disappearing completely by mid-summer. It is found across most of Missouri, mostly commonly south of the Missouri River. Beyond Missouri it ranges mostly eastward, reaching the Atlantic coast and into New England. It is the most common member of the genus in Missouri. However, distinguishing the plant from its lookalikes can be challenging, requiring detailed examination of flower length, seed size, and seed surface texture. C. flavula has the smallest flowers and the longest flower stalks, and in addition the tip of the spur is incurved.

Plants in the Corydalis genus contain isoquinoline alkaloids, including apomorphine, protopine, protoberberine, and bulbocapnine, and are toxic enough to have resulted in deaths of livestock and pets. The Fumariaceae has been found to be a paraphyletic grouping, and most botanists now subsume its members within the Papaveraceae.

Photographs taken at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Boone County, MO., 3-27-04 (DETenaglia); also at Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 4-6-2011; near St. Albans, Franklin County, MO, 4-20-2014; and near Labadie, Franklin County, MO, 4-5-2021 (SRTurner).