(Dentaria diphylla) Mustard family

Flowers - White, about 1/2 in. across, in a terminal loose

cluster, the formation of each similar to that of bulbous cress.

Stem: 8 to 15 in. high. Root stock: Long, crinkled, toothed,

fleshy, crisp, edible. Leaves: 2, opposite or nearly so, on the

stem, compounded of 3 ovate and toothed leaflets; also larger,

broader leaves on larger petioles from the rootstock. Fruit:

Flat, lance-shaped pods, 1 in. long or over, tipped with the

slender style.

Perferred Habitat - Rich leaf mould in woods, sometimes in

thickets and meadows.

Flowering Season - May.

Distribution - Nova Scotia to the Carolinas, west to the


Clusters of these pretty, white, cross-shaped flowers, found near

the bloodroot, claytonia, anemones, and a host of other delicate

spring blossoms, enter into a short but fierce competition with

them for the visits of the small Andrena and Halictus bees then

flying to collect nectar and pollen for a generation still

unborn. In tunnels underground, or in soft, partially decayed

wood, each busy little mother places the pellets of pollen and

nectar paste, then when her eggs have been laid on the food

supply in separate nurseries and sealed up, she dies from

exhaustion, leaving her grub progeny to eat its way through the

larva into the chrysalis state, and finally into that of a winged

bee that flies away to liberty. These are the little bees so

constantly seen about willow catkins.

Country children, on their way to school through the woods, often

dig up the curious, long crisp root of the toothwort, which

tastes much like the water-cress, to eat with their sandwiches at

the noon recess. Then, as they examine the little pointed

projections on the rootstock, they see why the plant received its


Another toothwort found throughout a similar range, the

CUT-LEAVED TOOTHWORT, or PEPPER-ROOT (D. laciniata), has its

equally edible rootstock scarcely toothed, but rather constricted

in places, giving its little tubers the appearance of beads

strung into a necklace. Its white or pale purplish-pink

cross-shaped flowers, loosely clustered at the end of an

unbranched stem, rise by preference above moist ground in rich

woods, often beside a spring, from April to June - a longer

season for wooing and working its insect friends than the

two-leaved toothwort has attained to - hence it is the commoner

plant. Instead of having two leaves on its stem, this species

spreads whorls of three leaves, thrice divided, almost to the

base, the divisions toothed or lobed, and the side ones sometimes

deeply cleft. The larger, longer petioled leaves that rise

directly from the rootstock have scarcely developed at flowering


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