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Heartleaf Bittercress Cardamine cordifolia


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Heartleaf Bittercress
credit: Bryant Olsen/CCSA

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Alternate name: Large Mountain Bittercress

Family: Brassicaceae, Mustard view all from this family

Description This species of bitter-cress differs from all others by its simple leaves that are heart-shaped at the base with wavy edges.
Habit: native perennial herb; upright leafy stems, smooth or softly hairy, unbranched or branched above; spreads by creeping rhizomes to form large colonies.
Height: 8-40 in (0.2-1 m)
Leaf: highly variable; mostly on stem, alternate, simple, heart-shaped to nearly round, pointed or rounded, sometimes softly hairy, thin-stalked; to 4 in (100 mm) long and wide; edges wavy, lobed or toothed, lobes sometimes tipped with small white calluses.
Flower: small, bright white, with 4 petals, 0.5-1 (12-25 mm) wide; in flat round terminal cluster.
Fruit: linear pod, 1-4 in (25-100 mm) long, to 0.1 in (2 mm) wide.

Flower May to September.

Habitat Along mountain streambanks, streams, alpine meadows, springs, shady gullies, creek bottoms, shorelines, ponds, moist hillsides, mossy areas, mixed coniferous forests; 2000-12,000 ft (600-3600 m).

Range Western North America, from British Columbia south to northern California, east to New Mexico, Wyoming and Idaho.

Discussion Also known as brook cress. Three varieties are recognized. Some plants in this family were reputed to have medicinal qualities that were used in the treatment of heart ailments. Among the several species in the West, most have pinnately parted or lobed leaves.