Yellow Corydalis in BSBI New Year Plant Hunts

Yellow Corydalis, Pseudofumaria lutea, flowering on a wall in December 2019
Distinctive upright spike of yellow florets of Yellow Corydalis, Pseudofumaria lutea
© Karen Netto (Andrews)

Official Flowering Time?

Yellow Corydalis was one of the plants that I found flowering during my BSBI New Year Plant Hunt last year. It is still flowering on walls locally this December. According to Streeter’s Collins Wild Flower Guide, it is supposed to flower between May and August. Poland & Clement’s Veg Key is closer to my experience: December to October with all year written in brackets.

The plant seems much hardier than the delicate appearance of its pinnate leaves might suggest. I find it growing locally on walls within the warmth of the village. It is usually outside or creeping outside gardens.

Naturalised

Yellow Corydalis is a naturalised plant in the Poppy or Papaveraceae family. It’s been with us in Britain for a while. The Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora notes that it was in cultivation in Britain by 1596. Its presence in the wild was first recorded in 1796 and it became widespread in the early 1800s. It is native to the Italian Alps.

Wet or Dry Habitats?

Yellow Corydalis grows out of walls and stony waste ground. Its dry habitats seem to belie its preference for moist environments. However, I note from my own photo collection that the plant is good at capturing raindrops and melting frost in its mass of leaves.

Flower spikes and leaves of Yellow Corydalis capture moisture. © Karen Netto (Andrews)

Garden Escape?

In carrying out my plant hunts, Yellow Corydalis sometimes raises doubts in my mind as to whether it should be recorded at all. West Country gardens do not always fit into neat boundaries and definitions. You regularly find a grass verge on the outside edge of a garden wall, that may or may not be tended by the homeowner. Wild, naturalised and garden escapes seem to intermingle over time. If the plant is on the outer edge of a garden wall, I tend to regard it as an escape. The proximity of the road or verge’s maintenance guides my decision. When the plant appears to have self-seeded on a church or other village wall, it’s much easier to decide.

Yellow Corydalis is one of those plants that you can trust to brighten up a drab, grey wall in winter. Unfortunately, gardeners may end up regretting the day they planted it. Once unleashed, it is not easily retamed.

© Karen Netto (Andrews)

References and Further Reading

Online Atlas of the British and Irish flora (2008): Pseudofumaria lutea. Last accessed 31 December 2019

Poland, John & Clement, Eric (2009): The Vegetative Key to the British Flora. Botanical Society of the British Isles. (UC. p. 399).

Streeter, David et al. (2016): Collins Wild Flower Guide. 2nd Edition. William Collins. London.

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