Perennial herb 10 - 40 cm tall Stem: upright and hairy. Flowers: in a loose, branched cluster, long-stalked, drooping, pink to purple, sometimes white, 7 mm - 1.5 cm long. Sepals four, purple, turning brownish with age, to 1.25 cm long. Petals four, much longer than sepals. Stamens six. Fruit: a narrow pod, upright, ascending, to 2 cm long. Rhizome: often growing near the surface, becoming green, continuous (not jointed or narrowing). Basal leaves: alternate, stalked, often purplish beneath, about as long as wide or longer, rounded. Stem leaves: three to five, alternate, stalkless, clasping, narrow, tip pointed, widely toothed.
Similar species: The similar Cardamine pratensis and C. pratensis var. palustris differ by having pinnately divided leaves. Cardamine bulbosa differs by having mainly hairless stems, white flowers, and green sepals. Also, the blooming period of C. bulbosa extends into mid-June. Other Cardamine species will have petals less than 7 mm long.
Flowering: mid-March to mid-May
Habitat and ecology: An occasional plant of wet mesic woodlands, often in springy places.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Etymology: Cardamine comes from the Greek word kardamon, which refers to plants in the cress family. Douglassii is for David Douglas (1798-1834), a Scottish collector for the Royal Horticultural Society.
Much like no. 6 [Cardamine rhomboidea (Pers.) DC.], and hybridizing with it, but mostly shorter (1-2.5 dm to the first fl), with consistently longer hairs (these 0.2-0.8 mm), pink or purple (rarely white) pet, and purple sep that turn brown in age; rhizome sometimes superficial and becoming green; lvs avg shorter, the basal ones usually purplish beneath and tending to be longer than wide; cauline lvs mostly 3-5; 2n=64, 96, 144. Moist woods; N.H. to s. Minn., s. to Va., Tenn., and Mo. Apr., May, cresting 2-3 weeks before no. 6.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.