Members of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) are widely known for their taste, utility, and ability to become weedy, but rarely for their beauty. In the case of the cut-leaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) however, its beauty is as great as it is fleeting. As a true ephemeral species (a species appearing only briefly aboveground to reproduce and then go dormant) its entire growth and reproductive cycle lasts little more than one month. It is a spring ephemeral appearing in late April or early May in northern climates, and somewhat earlier in southern areas. It is native to every state east of the Rocky Mountains and is common in most areas. Only in the most northeastern state is the species considered endangered with only one known population in Maine and three in New Hampshire.
This perennial species occurs in rich deciduous forests and wooded slopes where there is a deep cover of leaf litter and soils high in organic matter. A single stem rises from 8 to 15 inches from a slender, segmented rhizome. The leaves appear in whorls of three. Each leaf is dissected and coarsely toothed. The dissection, size, and arrangement of teeth on the leaf segment margins are highly variable both within and among populations of this species. The flowers are white, (sometimes pink especially in bud) and arranged in a terminal cluster. Each flower is approximately three-quarter inch across. The small black seeds are contained in a long erect pod.
The green colored states are where cut-leaved toothwort is found