Toothwort

Toothwort

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Dentaria laciniata

Exposure: Shade
Soil:
Medium wet-Medium
Height:
12 inches
Bloom: 
April-May

Notable Features: Toothwort is one of the first plants to bloom in spring; providing much-needed nectar to early spring-flying insects. Dozens of white to pale-pink flowers will cover a healthy colony of plants just a few years after transplant or division. It is also called Cutleaf Toothwort. It will go dormant mid-summer. 

Attracts: The nectar of the flowers attracts both long-tongued and short-tongued bees, including honey bees, bumblebees, mason bees (Osmia spp.), cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.), Halictid bees (Halictus spp., Lasioglossum spp.), and Andrenid bees (Andrena spp.). Less often, the nectar of the flowers attracts early spring butterflies and Bombylius major (Giant Bee Fly). Short-tongued bees also collect pollen from the flowers. Caterpillars of the butterflies Pieris napi oleraceae (Mustard White) and Pieris virginiensis (West Virginia White) feed on the foliage; however, the former butterfly has not been observed in Illinois since the late 19th century, while the latter butterfly is found in areas that are SE of the state. Other insect feeders include the flea beetles Phyllotreta bipustulata and Phyllotreta zimmermanni. The tubers of Toothworts were a minor food source of Ectopistes migratorius (Passenger Pigeon); this bird species became extinct in the United States during the early 20th century.