No more politics for now–let’s talk about pale corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens), a native plant usually found in disturbed areas of boreal (cold climate) forests.
A member of the poppy family, pale corydalis has unusual tubular pink flowers with yellow tips and multi-lobed blue-green leaves. It blooms in the summer to early fall. Its foliage looks a little bit like a bleeding heart; in fact, I’ve read that it is a relative of the bleeding heart.
A rare native species in Rhode Island, pale corydalis has been found in Wolf Hill Forest Preserve in Smithfield, RI, around the corner from where I live. It is found primarily in climates with cold winters and cooler summers. In North America, it’s found from Alaska east to Newfoundland, south to the Pacific Northwest U.S., northern Rocky Mountains, north-central Midwest U.S., and east to the Atlantic coast from Maine south to Georgia. Pale corydalis grows best with a lot of sun in dry, sandy, or gravelly soil, and in open or thin woods.
Pale corydalis is a pioneer species in secondary succession (an event such as a fire or other disturbance which changes an existing ecosystem), particularly after fires. Its seeds are generally fire-resistant and germinate quickly after a fire compared to many other species, because it thrives on the nutrients left behind after a fire. Generally, pale corydalis isn’t found in areas that haven’t been disturbed by fires, which is why it’s unusual for it to be found on Wolf Hill.
Pale corydalis grows easily from seed, though it’s not readily found commercially. I haven’t actually seen this plant on Wolf Hill, but I can’t wait to look for it next summer!
Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.