Cutleaf Toothwort

Dentaria laciniata or Cardamine concatenata

Cutleaf toothwort
Cutleaf toothwort

The leaves of this early spring wildflower occur in distinctive whorls of three. Each leaflet is deeply cut, sometimes so much so that it looks like there are five leaflets. Clusters of white to pinkish flowers are born at the top of the plant; each flower has four petals and tends to “nod” downward. Individual plants have an overall slender appearance and reach about 8-12 inches in height.

Cutleaf toothwort is in the Mustard family, but unlike most mustards, toothwort prefers to live in the forests.  It is one of the first plants to come up on the forest floor and like many of the other spring ephemerals, it flowers and goes to seed before the trees fully leaf out.

The fleshy roots (rhizomes) of Cutleaf Toothwort resemble a tooth, and this was once assumed to signify the plant’s use in herbal medicine–as a treatment for toothaches.  The roots and leaves are edible and have a peppery taste, hence the common names Pepper Root and Wild Horseradish.

Look for this plant at the first start of the wildflower season  (March to April in Virginia, depending on your elevation).


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Larry Evans says:

    Mollie Messimer turned me on to your site last year and I will definitely enjoy it again this year!. Cutleaf Toohwort is very common where i live on the south side of House Mountain in Rockbridge County, VA.

    Any morels yet? none here so far…

    Larry Evans

    1. gloria says:

      Hi Larry,

      Glad you are following along. Mollie’s place up in Lexington is a fabulous place for spring wildflowers. I miss going up there!
      No morels yet, although I’ve been scouting almost everyday. It just seems like they should be there already, but I guess they are just taking their time this year. Maybe we’ll all be surprised when they finally come up in droves! Hope so!

  2. Reblogged this on Virginias Touch Photography, and Astrology Graphics and commented:
    Toothwort is popping up now in Ohio and is plentiful.

  3. jcatlett says:

    My walking group saw lots of Cutleaf Toothwort emerging in the woods around Monticello Trail in Charlottesville, VA on Monday, March 13. The blooms have not opened yet.

    1. Gloria says:

      It’s coming! It’s coming! Spring is on the way!

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