Cut-leaved Toothwort

One of our early wildflowers

Take a short hike this afternoon … or work in the yard? No hard decision there. Hikes usually win and did today. I can always work in the yard tomorrow. The afternoon temperature was at 74, with strong south winds and a cloudless sky. Buffy and I went back to the small creek we’ve visited often lately.

A profusion of white (which will continue to increase) showed from a distance as I parked the truck. Rain from last night had the creek flowing at a pleasing rate. Flowers “danced” in the wind, reminding me of a children’s picture book titled Dancing the Breeze. In it the father and his daughter imitate flowers blowing in the wind. It won’t be long before there will be a lot of “dancing” going on with such an early spring.

All the white was a combination of spring beauties and cut-leaved toothworts. (See earlier blog about spring beauties) Cut-leaved toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) is one of our earliest wildflowers. The plants grow 8 to 15 inches tall in moist rich woods. They have 3 leaves, each divided into 3 narrow, sharply-toothed segments. The leaf in the upper left of the picture clearly shows one leaf.

Cut-leaved toothwort is also the host plant for falcate orangetip butterflies. It is a common woodland butterfly in the spring throughout the eastern U.S. Both the male and female are white above; the male has an orange tip on the top of its forewing. Both have greenish-brown mottling underneath on the hindwing. They have a 1 3/8 – 1 1/2 inch wingspan. In our area (southern Illinois) they lay their eggs on cresses and the toothwort.

I wonder what might live in these trees.

Every time I pass these trees, I think how much fun they would be to have in my yard, and how much fun kids could have playing there. It’s difficult to tell if they’re one or two trees. The roots seem to combine between them, and there’s a cavity runs the whole length underneath. There are even more cavities tucked in several places. I’d have stayed and played, but someone had to cook supper.

… and then a male falcate orangetip flew around in the woods, looking for a female. Males emerge before females do. This was my first of the year. He never landed for pictures. Soon they will be common too.


One response to this post.

  1. I love it! Those trees have always been good playtime areas for me!


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