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 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.


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 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 Andrews

References and Further Reading

  • Online Atlas of the British and Irish flora (2008): Pseudofumaria lutea.
  • 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.

Copyright Note

Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

© Karen Andrews 2018 onwards. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Andrews and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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