Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Corydalis Lutea

Recognize the wonder plant pictured above? It is Corydalis lutea, also known as Corydalis or Yellow Fumitory. Research from the Internet says it is a short lived perennial wildflower native to Europe. It is hardy in Zones 5-8, needs some shade and would prefer moisture, but like my toad lilies and turtlehead; I have not added any additional water to the corydalis. This is one of the plants growing in my Woodland Garden. Since I posted on my woodland garden yesterday, I thought it be appropriate to showcase the corydalis here today.

I have grown this perennial for six years now. I knew nothing of it when I first planted it back in 2003. In 2004 this perennial bloomed from May to October. I just adored it. See the gray foliage? It is a nice foil for the dainty yellow flowers.

Research from the Internet says corydalis is poisonous to horses. So do use caution if you grow corydalis lutea and make sure no horses can get a nibble of the flowers or leaves. Another note on this little flower, I have not noticed a fragrance from either the foliage or the flowers.

The corydalis continued to bloom non-stop during each growing season from 2003 until the dreaded gardening year of 2007. That year will live among all gardeners as probably the worst gardening year ever. The freeze did not bother little plant, it was the drought. This plant lived for about half of the summer then disappeared. I thought I had finally lost it and began looking around for a replacement. Sadly I could not find one anywhere. No one had ever even heard of it. Just go to a plant nursery and ask for Corydalis. They'll say "What?!" Then when you say and spell it out C-O-R-Y-D-A-L-I-S for them, they'll still say "What?!" Then they'll go to their catalogs and computer terminals and look it up, shaking their heads that such a plant exists. Lucky are you to find a nurseryman who even knows what it is or has it in stock. I know this from experience, at least in my part of the world. Perhaps I am going to the wrong nurseries but I would think all nurseries would take pains to stock good plants for the garden, and this one fits the bill in my book.

This past year I noticed some seedlings had sprung up. The corydalis is reputed to self seed but I had not seen any in the previous years when it had grown in my garden. I must've had half a dozen seedlings! I am thinking that the one plant that died out in 2007 set some good viable seed and conditions were just right for several of the seeds to sprout last spring. I am very happy corydalis is still hanging around here in my garden. It is truly a great little plant with some neat survival mechanisms in place. Such a good thing for me....

in the garden....

This article was originally published in the Middle Tennessee's Perennial Plant Society's Quarterly Newsletter in November 2008.


  1. Interesting looking plant, Tina. I love the way its foliage seems to offset the yellow flowers. It must look lovely in the shade of a wooded area.
    By the way, I've posted about my Warli gourd, especially for you. That was the very first one I've ever worked on. I'm sure your version is going to be mind-blowing... waiting to see it :)

  2. How nice to have all those babies! I do not know this cultivar of corydalis. It is a very nice yellow against the gray/blue foliage.

  3. Cute little flower, I love the native plants they seem to be so hardy to their spot.

  4. I think I have this plant. It was given to me as a Corydalis but the giver did not know the species. I have named it Corydalis 'Can't-Get-Rid-Of-This'. It comes up all over the semi-shady parts of my garden. It is easy enough to pull up and move or compost. My flowers have no noticable scent, but the foliage has a very distinctive almost medicinal aroma especially when cut or crushed.

  5. Tina, I'd seen this plant before but was clueless to what it was. As to the horses, they usually know what not to eat I see bad stuff in their pastures all the time.

  6. Good morning all!

    Sunita, Great post this morning and timely since my gourds are ready for crafting now. Gotta get to work I guess.

    Janet, I love this little plant. Very low but sweet. It grows where you are I think, Les has it!

    Dawn, Yup, wildflowers-hard to beat them.

    Les, Yes, they do self seed but that is the beauty! Easy to pull or give to others. It has not easily self seeded here so I am glad it finally did. I hope for more as it plays well with others and never takes over. I think friends who give us sweet things like this are the best-just no gooseneck or houttenyia please!

    Randy, And this morning you posted the spring beauty! Another super wildflower. I have none. Maybe we can trade? You get some corydalis and I get some spring beauty?:)

  7. That's one hardy plant with those pretty yellow blooms. May to October is a long period for the blooms to keep coming. Worth having the garden.

  8. Tina- Good morning! You woodland garden is beautiful. I don't have a lot of shade in my yard but when the trees grow a little more, I will be able to play with more shade plants. Are you able to get onto Blotanical this morning? Mine comes up as "suspended: contact billing". Not sure what that is.

  9. The foliage on the Corydalis is just lovely, and it is “a nice foil for the dainty flowers.” How sad not to find gardening expertise at a nursery. Hopefully they will go on line and find this very informative blog. Cool that is was published too.

  10. It certainly is pretty. The delicate foliage and those sunny clusters of yellow would brighten up a woodland garden. I"m glad yours continues on. I haven't seen it in any nurseries either.

  11. Tina,

    I cannot get this little cutie pie to establish here! I wonder why? I love the blue flowered variety, too!


  12. I brought back one of those from my in-laws house last year but never got it established. They are very pretty little flowers.

  13. Corydalis is such a dainty plant. I had a blue-flowering species from Plant Delights that sadly was lost in the drought summer before last. I need to replace it. It bloomed the entire growing season and had the blue flowers and pink buds reminiscent of Virginia Bluebell.

    Your photo captures the delicacy and color of the foliage beautifully.

  14. Kanak, It is a pretty neat flower. I hope you are hanging tough in the heat. We'll have it soon.

    Heather, Thanks! Blotanical appears to be down. Too much tech stuff. I'm sure Stuart is working on it.

    Sarah, The nurseries can be a bit challenged in knowledgeable folks. It is sad. This is a very large nursery where I've hunted for it. But others too don't know what it is. I bought my plant at a lawn and garden show-which is this weekend!

    Marnie, Yes! I am so glad it continues on. I would love for it continue on more-so I can share it with others. It is sweet.

    Gail, It just might surprise you. Hang in there. It has not needed additional water here and is okay with sweet soil so it should come in your garden. Give it some time. Does Gro wild sell it?

    Dave, Maybe it will self seed and appear this year. Can't mistake those seedlings. I usually pull most of mine but recognize this one okay. Look for it this year if we have a moist spring.

    Gotta go garden....and walk this morning. ttyl

  15. Sweetbay, I have seen the blue one on some blogs. I am on the hunt for it too. I just really like this type of plant. It is a shame about yours! Maybe it will reappear for you like mine did. Thanks on the photo. For the newsletter I had to draw this photo on the computer-in black and white. I tried to get the simplicity of the plant to make the drawing easier. I like photos much better!

  16. I'm sure I've seen this plant in some catalogs if not in nurseries. I've never grown it, though. It's always nice to have something re-seed itself; pretty foliage.

  17. Isn't it amazing that nature survives under all sorts of unkind conditions? Don't count her little seedlings out! For she just might prove you wrong. How nice that for the good of us all, they often do.

  18. What a nice plant, I've seen this but never grown it before. The foliage reminds me alot of the Fernleaf Bleeding Hearts. Thanks for the info!

  19. This is definitely one I'm going to add in my woodland area. I had a blue one years ago, but I think it was too warm when I planted it, and i didn't give it enough water. I like the yellow flowers on this one, it would really brighten up a shady area. Luckily we have no horses! :)

  20. I have seen this plant before, hum, maybe in your garden! Probably but will be keeping an eye out for it as I would like to add more fun things to the shade area around the patio. This looks like a blooming plant the hummingbirds might enjoy. I will go to the link and see what it has to say…

    Calling for 80-degrees here on Saturday! The Saint and I are going to town for supplies for yard play in non-soggy areas this weekend. Yippee!

  21. Sounds like a good plant to have and glad it reappeared at Tiger Garden!!

  22. Hi there, I'm writing to see if other Blotanists are having trouble logging on to Blotanical - I'm getting an error message that is blocking my access. It happened once before, then just went away. Bother!!

  23. p.s. one of my all time favorite plants is climbing fumitory, a lovely biennial - Adlumia fungosa, with dangling blooms of a pale pink. In Chicago it was a star of my garden, with its delicate foliage and prolific blooms.

  24. p.s. one of my all time favorite plants is climbing fumitory, a lovely biennial - Adlumia fungosa, with dangling blooms of a pale pink. In Chicago it was a star of my garden, with its delicate foliage and prolific blooms.

  25. Hi Tina~
    I like the leaves on the Corydalis they would make nice impressions in my clay pieces.


  26. I've never heard of this plant. It does have a pretty yellow flower. I doubt it would survive here even if I could find it.
    Just finished having fresh carrots from the garden. Nice & sweet--a great snack for lunch.

  27. What's with nursery staff that don't know plants? If I went to the doctor and said I had "cordyalis" (presumably some sort of numbness, perhaps in the knees) and he/she had to look it up, I'd run (not walk) to the exit and find another professional who did. I know plant sellers aren't making life and death decisions, but geeze...

  28. In my garden, a cousin of this plant, the Corydalis solida is doing very well. (I wrote a blogpost about C. solida last year, it is in Dutch, but you can see the pictures.)
    One of the folknames of the Corydalis solida is 'vogeltje op een kruk', which can be translated as 'bird on a branch', and indeed, when you look at the flowers of both your yellow fumitory or 'my' fumewort (or bulbous corydalis) you can see a bird in those flowers.

    Fumewort is doing very well under my century-old beeches, and it's spreading slowly, but the yellow fumitory I tried once disappeared after a year.

  29. Wow, Tina. That is very exciting, I have always loved it when plants self seeded! By the way thanks for posting on That is my mom, and I it really encouraged her to have someone post on it. You have inspired her to write more blogs and posting more recipes... And that is more than I have been able to


  30. Tina,
    It sure is pretty! I'm late to the blogs today (had to "work" all day on travel writing).

    I think I've seen this used in combination with a blue bloom. Can't remember the companion. I'll probably think of it later. My brain has switched from the garden to travel channel.


  31. Rose, The flower is really pretty. I'll look for it in catalogs. I'd like to have some other corydalis too.

    Brenda, Nature is a gem!

    Racquel, corydalis grows in the same conditions-so maybe it and the bleeding heart are cousins?

    Catherine, I'm looking for the blue too. Glad to see someone else has grown it too.

    Skeeter, Have the greatest time playing in that yard. Might be time to get that arbor built:)

    Mom, Thank you. Please get well soonest!!

    Hi Alice and welcome! Yes, Blotanical seems to be down today. Haven't checked it in a while, hopefully it will be up soon. I have but that Adlumia fungosa on my list of desired plants. If it grows in Chicago it should grow here. Sounds great!

    Karrita, Yes, nice and unusual leaves. More like a hand or something.

    Lola, Carrots sound so good!!

    WS, Yes, that would be very scary indeed. I hope they learn about corydalis soon for all of us.

    Anne, That is a lovely flower! I did see a bird. More like a big crane but yes a bird. I like this plant and will keep my eye out for it. Thanks for the link to it. I am learning a whole lot from your blog and beautiful pics-Dutch or not!

  32. Zach, You are very welcomed. You tell your mom to hang in there and keep posting and doing what she does. She should get with some cooking blogs and there are tons! More and more will come over and she'll have so many comments she won't know what to do. It pleases me so much when one of my comments makes someone happy and encouraged with their blog, so thanks for letting me know.

    Cameron, On your way to sunny France? Should be a lovely trip!

  33. It looks lovely. I wonder if it's also harmful to humans and dogs? Will have to look it up. It probably wouldn't survive being trampled by the canines anyway.

  34. Melanthia, Not sure if it would survive being trampled but fairly versatile. Also not sure on harmful to humans and dogs. Probably so though:(

  35. I need to go back to my pics to see if that's what I have. I love it, but always forget what it is, and people who see it want to know. If it's what I have, it spreads out some, but doesn't put down roots that would enable it to be divided.

    I hope your seedlings grow well. I don't think mine have come up from seeds.

  36. I love Corydalis; they're so cute. I have a few.