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Pinnate Coralroot

Cardamine heptaphylla

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Brassicaceae (Cabbage)
Also in this family:
Alpine Pennycress, Alpine Rock-cress, American Wintercress, Annual Wall Rocket, Austrian Yellowcress, Awlwort, Bastard Cabbage, Black Mustard, Bristol Rock-cress, Charlock, Common Scurvygrass, Common Whitlowgrass, Coralroot, Creeping Yellowcress, Cuckooflower, Dame's-violet, Danish Scurvygrass, Dittander, Early Wintercress, Eastern Rocket, English Scurvygrass, Evergreen Candytuft, False London Rocket, Field Pennycress, Field Pepperwort, Flixweed, Garden Arabis, Garden Candytuft, Garden Cress, Garden Radish, Garden Rocket, Garlic Mustard, Glabrous Whitlowgrass, Gold of Pleasure, Great Yellowcress, Greater Cuckooflower, Greater Periwinkle, Greater Swinecress, Hairy Bittercress, Hairy Rock-cress, Hairy Rocket, Hairy Whitlowgrass, Hedge Mustard, Hoary Cress, Hoary Mustard, Hoary Stock, Hoary Whitlowgrass, Honesty, Horseradish, Hutchinsia, Hybrid Watercress, Intermediate Periwinkle, Isle of Man Cabbage, Large Bittercress, Lesser Swinecress, London Rocket, Lundy Cabbage, Marsh Yellowcress, Mountain Scurvygrass, Narrow-fruited Watercress, Narrow-leaved Bittercress, Narrow-leaved Pepperwort, Northern Rock-cress, Northern Yellowcress, Oilseed Rape, Perennial Rocket, Perennial Wall Rocket, Perfoliate Pennycress, Purple Rock-cress, Pyrenean Scurvygrass, Rock Whitlowgrass, Russian Rocket, Scottish Scurvygrass, Sea Kale, Sea Radish, Sea Rocket, Sea Stock, Shepherd's Cress, Shepherd's Purse, Small-flowered Wintercress, Smith's Pepperwort, Steppe Cabbage, Swede, Sweet Alyssum, Tall Rocket, Thale Cress, Tower Mustard, Treacle Mustard, Trefoil Cress, Turnip, Wall Whitlowgrass, Wallflower, Wallflower Cabbage, Warty Cabbage, Watercress, Wavy Bittercress, White Mustard, Wild Cabbage, Wild Candytuft, Wild Radish, Wild Turnip, Wintercress, Woad, Yellow Whitlowgrass
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
70 centimetres tall
Gardens, wasteland, woodland.

Purple, 4 petals
Flowers appear in clusters. The long-stalked purple cup-shaped flowers have well spaced petals. Individual flowers are 1.5 to 2.5cm in diameter. Lilac and white flower forms are also seen. Pollinated by flies, bees, butterflies and moths.
The fruit is a pod, up to 4 to 8cm in length.
Divided leaves with 5 to 11 toothed leaflets. The stems are erect and unbranched. Perennial garden escape species.
Other Names:
Seven-leaved Bittercress, Seven-leaved Toothwort.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Cardamine heptaphylla, also known as seven-leaved bittercress or seven-leaved toothwort, is a plant species in the Brassicaceae family. It is native to North America and is found primarily in the eastern and central parts of the United States. The plant is a perennial herb with hairy stems and leaves, and produces small white or pink flowers in the spring. It gets its common name from the fact that its leaves are usually divided into seven leaflets. Cardamine heptaphylla is often found growing in moist, shaded areas such as woodlands, and is sometimes grown in gardens for its attractive flowers. The leaves and flowers of the plant are edible and have a spicy, mustard-like flavor, and have been used traditionally in herbal medicine.


Pinnate Coralroot (Cardamine heptaphyla) is a rare and unique species of flowering plant native to North America. This beautiful herb is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes well-known plants like mustard, cress, and radish.

Pinnate Coralroot is a perennial herb that grows in damp woodlands, meadows, and along stream banks. It is known for its delicate, feathery leaves that resemble fern fronds. The plant produces clusters of small, white, four-petalled flowers in the spring, which are a favorite food source for many species of pollinators.

The most striking feature of Pinnate Coralroot is its root system, which is unlike any other plant in its family. Instead of absorbing nutrients from the soil like most plants, Pinnate Coralroot obtains its sustenance from a symbiotic relationship with fungi. This relationship is called myco-heterotrophy, and it allows the plant to live in nutrient-poor soils.

Pinnate Coralroot has a narrow range of habitats and is considered a threatened species in some states. It is important to protect the remaining populations of this plant, as it provides essential habitat and food for pollinators and other wildlife.

Due to its rare and delicate nature, Pinnate Coralroot is not widely cultivated, but it is sometimes grown by wildflower enthusiasts and botanical gardens. If you are interested in growing this plant in your own garden, it is important to understand its specific requirements, including well-draining soils and partial shade.

Pinnate Coralroot is a unique and fascinating plant that adds a touch of beauty and rarity to the wildflower landscape. It is important to protect this delicate species and its habitat, so that future generations can enjoy its beauty and appreciate its significance in the ecosystem.

In addition to its aesthetic value, Pinnate Coralroot also holds cultural and medicinal significance. The plant was used by Native American tribes for a variety of purposes, including as a medicinal herb for treating various ailments such as headaches, fevers, and digestive problems.

Pinnate Coralroot is also an important food source for wildlife, including deer and small mammals. The plant's leaves, stems, and seeds provide essential nutrients for these animals during the spring and summer months, when other food sources may be scarce.

Despite its importance, Pinnate Coralroot is facing several threats, including habitat loss and degradation, as well as competition from non-native plant species. Conservation efforts are crucial in ensuring the survival of this species, including habitat restoration and protection, as well as research into the best methods for cultivating and propagating the plant.

Gardeners and wildflower enthusiasts can also play a role in protecting Pinnate Coralroot by avoiding the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers, and by planting native species in their gardens. By creating healthy and diverse ecosystems in our own backyards, we can help to support the survival of this rare and beautiful plant.

Pinnate Coralroot is a remarkable plant that deserves our attention and protection. Its unique relationship with fungi, cultural and medicinal significance, and importance to wildlife make it a valuable component of our ecosystem.

Another aspect of Pinnate Coralroot that makes it so interesting is its life cycle. Unlike most flowering plants, which photosynthesize and produce their own food, Pinnate Coralroot relies on a symbiotic relationship with fungi for its nutrients.

This relationship is known as myco-heterotrophy, and it allows the plant to grow in nutrient-poor soils where other plants may struggle. The fungi receive carbon from the plant in exchange for nutrients, creating a mutually beneficial relationship that allows both organisms to thrive.

However, this relationship also makes Pinnate Coralroot vulnerable to changes in its environment. The health and abundance of the fungi in the soil can directly impact the growth and survival of the plant. Changes to the ecosystem, such as deforestation, soil degradation, and the introduction of non-native species, can disrupt the balance of this relationship and threaten the survival of Pinnate Coralroot.

It is important to understand the unique ecology of Pinnate Coralroot and its relationship with fungi, in order to develop effective conservation strategies for this species. Research into the distribution, ecology, and genetics of Pinnate Coralroot and its fungal partners can provide valuable insights into the best methods for preserving this rare and beautiful plant.

In conclusion, Pinnate Coralroot is a fascinating and delicate species that highlights the complexity and interconnectivity of our ecosystem. Its unique relationship with fungi and its importance to wildlife make it a valuable component of the natural world. By learning more about this plant and taking steps to protect it, we can help ensure its survival for future generations to enjoy.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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