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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Cardamine concatenata (Michx.) O. Schwarz

Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Common Name:

cut-leaf toothwort, pepperwort


Cut-leaf toothwort is a native perennial that grows to 20 cm in rich mesic deciduous woods and blooms from April through May.

White to pale pink flowers, up to 2 cm wide, are in a loose terminal cluster and open only in the sun. Like all mustards the flowers have 4 petals, bent outward at the middle forming a cross, and six stamens, 4 long and 2 short. 

The leaves are in a whorl of 3 attached near the center of a the stem.  Each leaf has 3 irregularly toothed lobes, but the lobes are so deeply cut that there appear to be 5. The stem above where the leaves attach is slightly hairy.

The stem continues underground as a shallow rhizome that grows in segments, 2 to 3 cm long between constrictions. The tooth-like projections on the segments is the source of the common name “toothwort”. Like most species in the mustard family cut-leaf toothwort contains pungent mustard oil glucosides. These give the radish-like taste to the rhizome and to the plant another common name, “pepperwort”.

While individual plants can tolerate some disturbance, it takes many years to form the large patches of plants found in undisturbed woods. The seeds rarely mature and so the plants tend to spread slowly by rhizomes rather than by seed.

  • Origin of the name: cardamine, Gk. for cress, any edible plant with pungent leaves; concatenatus, L., joined together, forming a chain, refers to the segmented rhizome.  Formerly, Dentaria laciniata.
  • Range: Eastern N. Amer., w. to SD, TX
  • WI Range:  scattered statewide
  • Common associates: sugar maple, red oak, trout lily
  • Wetland Indicator Status: FACU
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: WI, 6; MI, 5; Chicago Region, 5
  • More info on the Mustard Family
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