How to Grow Cutleaf Toothwort

Cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) in Cherokee National Forest.

Joshua Moore / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In This Article

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) is a herbaceous perennial of the mustard family (Brassicaceae). It was formerly known by the botanical name Dentaria laciniata and is sometimes also still referred to by this.

Stems grow three to ten inches tall from a slim, segmented rhizome where there are tooth-like projections on the root. Distinctly divided lance-shaped leaves arise in whorls of three with three to five narrow lobes and teeth along the edges. These hairless leaves are greyish green to medium green. Each leaf is about three inches long and across. Buds come in April with white three-quarter inch flowers blooming in May in a small cluster on the tip of an erect stem. Each four-petal flower is about a three-quarter-inch across with four green or purple sepals, several stamens that have yellow anthers, and one pistil.

While characteristically white, the fragrant flowers can be tinted pink or light purple. Fruits are long, thin two-inch long pods. Within each pod, ovoid, somewhat flattened seeds come in a single row. Roots create a system of fleshy yet fragile rhizomes that are jointed, running shallowly parallel to the ground. By spreading these rhizomes, the Cutleaf Toothwort plant usually forms vegetative colonies.

While much happens under the surface, this perennial is known as "a true ephemeral species" because it only puts on a show for a little more than a month above ground before the foliage turns yellow and the plant goes dormant.

Hardy in USDA Zones 3-8, it is native to most of the eastern half of North America west. It appears in late April or early May in northern climates and a bit earlier in the south.

Cutleaf toothwort has hybridized with large toothwort (Cardamine maxima) to produce Cardamine x incisa in northern and central states.

Botanical Name Cardamine concatenata (Synonyms: Cardamine laciniata, Dentaria concatenata, Dentaria concatenata var. coalescens, Dentaria laciniata, Dentaria laciniata var. integra
Common Names Cutleaf Toothwort, Cut-leaved Toothwort, Toothwort
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size Three to ten inches tall, six inches to one foot wide
Sun Exposure Part shade (Dappled sunlight and summertime afternoon shade)
Soil Type Well-drained organically rich, mesic to moist
Soil pH Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Bloom Time April to May
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 3 - 8, USA
Native Area Eastern half of North America west to the Dakotas down to Texas

Cutleaf Toothwort Care

Plant Cutleaf Toothwort slightly below the soil surface, ideally in woodland gardens, wildflower gardens or naturalized areas. Consider establishing it on borders or in a rock garden near late spring and summer perennials that will bloom after its growth season has ended.

This member of the mustard family will attract the first of the season's bees. Sometimes its nectar will even bring early spring butterflies. Unfortunately, Flea Beetles can also be attracted to the leaves.

Light

Find a spot that offers part shade. This plant blooms in dappled sunlight before the trees fill out and then requires part shade to full shade in summer.

Soil

Give Cutleaf Toothwort moist to mesic, humusy, well-drained soil. To mimic its native rich deciduous forests, add decaying leaves for extra nutrition.

Other habitats include floodplain woodlands, wooded bluffs and upland savannas where likely the soil has never been plowed or disturbed by construction. Still, this plant can survive a few animals paws passing through or the occasional human seeking to harvest its tubers.

Water

Medium watering is recommended. In the proper environment, this perennial should receive enough water to thrive independently.

Is Cutleaf Toothwort Toxic?

Cutleaf Toothwort is not toxic according to many sources, but it's always a good idea to consult a wellness expert or foraging guide in natural areas where the plant is often crowded. It can be displaced by garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), which is toxic to some animals and to insects such as butterflies that make the mistake of nesting on it.

Healing Properties

The root of Cutleaf Toothwort can be consumed after it has been properly fermented for four of five days. It has had a wide range of medicinal uses amongst Native American tribes.

Propagating Cutleaf Toothwort

Cutleaf Toothwort will naturalize by rhizomes and form colonies. Dig up the fragile rhizomes carefully and divide or sow seeds freshly.