Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
This native plant blooms in late May nearly throughout North Dakota. We have two varieties here. One in which the flowers usually overtop the leaves is found mostly in the northeastern part of the state; the other has leaves overtopping the flowers, and is found nearly statewide. Elsewhere, golden corydalis occurs from Quebec to Alaska, south to New Mexico and West Virginia.
Golden corydalis is a hairless, tufted winter annual from a slender taproot. About 4-10 simple or slightly branched stems arise from a single base. These plants are usually about 6-8 inches tall in our area, but usually become prostrate with age. The much-dissected, alternate leaves mostly arise below the center of the plant. Flowers are pale to bright yellow, and found in loose clusters of 4-12. Flowers are about 1/2 inch long, and nearly tubular; the two pairs of petals are dissimilar in shape. Seeds are glassy black, slightly compressed, and formed within curved, beaked pods about 3/4 inch long.
Look for golden corydalis in prairies, open woods, and roadsides. The effects of grazing on this plant are unknown. The plant is reputed to be used in Mexico as a tea for women recovering from childbirth. Roots of some closely-related Asian and European species are used as food or tonic medicines.
Golden corydalis is a member of the fumitory family (Fumariaceae), the name derived from the Latin fumus, alluding to the nitrous odors of the roots of Fumaria, another genus in this family. The family includes ornamental bleeding hearts and the mountain fringe. There are about 100 species of Corydalis worldwide, the name derived from the Greek korydalis, the crested lark. The specific name aurea means "golden" in botanical Latin. Golden corydalis was first named for science by Carl Ludwig Willdenow (1765-1812), former director of the Berlin Botanical Garden, and producer of the 4th edition of Linnaeus' Species Plantarum, the first accepted book of botanical nomenclature.