The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.

Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

Pale Corydalis

Common Name
Pale Corydalis (Rock Harlequin, Pink Corydalis)


Scientific Name
Corydalis sempervirens (L.) Pers.


Plant Family
Fumitory (Fumariaceae)

Garden Location
Historical- 1909 - not extant


Prime Season
Spring Flowering



Pale Corydalis is a native erect biennial forb, growing from 1 to 3 feet high on stems that branch profusely.

Leaves are pale green to grayish-green, pinnately divided several times, with the lower leaves stalked.

The inflorescence is a terminal cluster in the shape of a raceme (flowers attached to a central stalk) or sometimes a panicle (open cluster with branches), with 1 to 8 flowers on each axis of the inflorescence. The base of the inflorescence has a pair of very small leaf-like bracts.

Flowers: Flowers are bilaterally symmetric about 1 plane. Each 5/8 inch long flower is held erect on a slender stalk. There are 2 pairs of petals that are pinkish to mauve-pink, with a yellowish tip. The outer petals are dissimilar and form a somewhat tubular shape, each petal with marginal wing and sometimes with a wing on the front part. One of these petals forms a long spur. Neither outer petal has a crest (or keel). The inner pair of petals have a clawed base where the claw is longer than the blade of the petal, but the entire inner petals are shorter than the outer and attached at the tip. The sexual parts are within the tube with a nectar spur formed near the stamen filament bundle which is attached to the inner surface of the large outer spurred petal. The style has a triangular stigma. There are a pair of short ovate sepals at the base of the flower.

Seed: Fertile flowers produce 2-chambered erect seed pods that are long and slender, containing small shiny-brown 1 mm seeds that have a faint reticulated surface.


Habitat: Pale Corydalis grows from a succulent root system and does best in dry sunny to partly sunny areas of slopes, woodland edges, rocky or sandy soils, but where to air temperature is not overly hot as this is a plant of cooler environments.

Names: The genus Corydalis, is taken from the Greek word for "crested lark". The species name sempervirens, means 'evergreen', which the plant is in more southerly places. The author names for the plant classification are: First to classify but useing the name Fumaria sempervirens in 1753, was - '(L.)' which refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. His work was amended in 1807 by ‘Pers.’ who is Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1761-1836), South African born botanist, educated in Europe, maintained a large herbarium, published Synopsis Plantarum, describing 20,000 species, but best known for his work in the fungi. The names C. glauca and Capnoides sempervirens were once used to describe Pale Corydalis but neither are an accepted name today.

Comparisons: This species is distinguished from some other Corydalis species by the pink petals tipped in yellow, the inner petals having a clawed base longer than the blade of the petal, the lack of crests on the outer petals, its annual to biennial life, and small seeds (not greater than 1 mm). The non-native species, Fumewort, Corydalis solida, is present in the Garden.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

Pale Corydalis Botanical Illustration drawing

Above: Illustration by Mary Walcott. Drawing ©Flora of North America

Below: 1st photo - The pinkish flowers of Pale Corydalis. 2nd photo - the inflorescence. Photos ©Wisconsin Flora. 1st - Keir Morse; 2nd - Derek Anderson.

Pale Corydalis Flower Pale Corydalis


Notes: Pale Corydalis is no longer extant in the Garden. Eloise Butler's records show that she put in plants obtained from east coast nurseries in 1909 (Sept. 4th, from Stony Brook, MA) and planted seeds of this species on Oct. 9, 1909 (seeds from Bunker Hill, MA). On July 26, 1914 she got plants from Osceola WI; on May 24, 1917 from Taylor's Falls MN (probably Strand's Nursery); two plants (named Corydalis sempervirens) on 24 Sept. 1919 from Northome, MN; more on Oct. 14, 1926; more seed on April 12, 1932 and then again on Oct. 7, 1932 from seed that was collected by a friend on a trip to Isle Royal in August 1932. The Isle Royal connection is via Gertrude Cram, who visited Isle Royal each August, staying at the Rock Harbor Lodge. She was a "botanical friend" of Eloise Butler (and later of Martha Crone) and she would collect plants and seeds and send them back to Eloise. Eloise would plant many specimens in 1932 from Isle Royal. At the time, plant collecting on Isle Royal was allowed. All references, exc. as noted, used the older name C. glauca. Martha Crone planted 35 specimens in 1934 and 1935 (she used the older name C. glauca). Martha Crone's 1951 Garden census still listed the plant as extant.

The three species of Corydalis native to Minnesota are C. aurea, Golden Corydalis, C. micrantha, Slender Fumewort, and C. sempervirens, Pale Corydalis. C. sempervirens is native to Minnesota in counties of the NE Quadrant, but not the Metro area. It is native to most of the eastern United States and all of Canada. The Garden has a species (Corydalis solida) not native to Minnesota, but found in certain east coast states where it has been introduced.

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

graphicIdentification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.