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Cardamine cordifolia

Cardamine cordifolia

Cardamine cordifolia

Cardamine cordifolia
Cardamine cordifolia (Heartleaf Bittercress)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Streamsides. Summer.
Cross Mountain Trail, July 8, 2007.

Heartleaf Bittercress abounds along and in mountain streams and it produces extensive and dense patches of lustrous green leaves topped by clusters of brilliant white flowers  --  as shown in the above photographs taken on the Sneffels Highline and Sharkstooth Trails. 

As the third photograph above shows, Heartleaf Bittercress appears as tiny purple stems and leaves just after snow melt.  The plant then grows rapidly with chlorophyll quickly masking the purple hues, and then flowers appear within a few weeks. The plant flowers all summer, and its seed pods provide fun along the trail, for they burst open with a squeeze of the fingers.

"Cardam" is the name given by Greeks thousands of years ago to Cress plants. Latin gives us both "cord" for "heart" (as in "courageous") and "folia" for "leaf" (as in "foliage").

Asa Gray named this species in 1849 from a specimen collected by Augustus Fendler on the "margin of Santa Fe Creek, in the mountains" near Santa Fe in 1847.  (Information and quotation from Intermountain Flora.)  The plant grows in western Canada, down to  northern California and to Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Cardamine cordifolia
Cardamine cordifolia (Heartleaf Bittercress)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Streamsides. Summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, July 11, 2005.

The white of Cardamine cordifolia is among the whitest of all white flowers.

Cardamine cordifolia
Cardamine cordifolia (Heartleaf Bittercress)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Streamsides. Summer.
Pass Creek Trail, July 27, 2009.

Leaves are tipped with prominent, knobby calluses.

Cardamine cordifolia
Cardamine cordifolia (Heartleaf Bittercress)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Montane, subalpine, alpine. Streamsides. Summer.
El Diente Trail, August 3, 2009.

Seed pods grow to over two inches long and then explode, flinging seeds in all directions.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Cardamine cordifolia