Corydalis and Dicentra flowers

I have repeatedly stated that Corydalis and Dicentra are closely related (and form either the family Fumariaceae, or the subfamily Fumarioideae, depending on who you ask). This may leave you asking many questions, such as “Are you sure?”, “How so?”, and “Can you leave me alone?”.

While Dicentra and Corydalis flowers may look dissimilar, they share a number of characteristics. The most obvious being that they all possess four petals: two inner petals which are joined in the middle, and hide the anthers and stigma; and two outer petals. One of the main differences is the that Dicentra flowers have two planes of symmetry, whereas Corydalis flowers only have one. This results in superficially different flowers, despite the structure actually having a lot in common.

The main purpose of this post is to show the relationship between these groups of plants.

Compare and contrast

Corydalis flexuosa ‘Purple Leaf’

First up: Corydalis flexuosa ‘Purple Leaf’. The first photo shows the side profile of the flowers, with the white, fused inner petals and the blue outer petals. The second photo shows the plane of symmetry, and also some nice detail on the petals.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Valentine’

Next up, Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Valentine’ (formerly a Dicentra). From the side you can see the symmetrical, ‘bleeding heart’ shape of the flower. Again, the inner petals are white and fused at the end. The outer petals are red, with the reflexed ends much more exaggerated than in the Corydalis. The second photo shows the second plane of symmetry, and also the similarity with the Corydalis flowers.

Corydalis nobilis

Corydalis nobilis holds it’s flowers in dense flower spikes, but close up you can easily see the classic Corydalis shaped flowers. Looking face on to the flowers shows the darker fused ends of the inner petals, and the yellow-fading-to-white outer petals more clearly. While taking these photos, I also noticed some red markings on some of the outer petals.

Dicentra formosa

Now for some Dicentra formosa seedlings. Much like with the Lamprocapnos flowers, the side profile shows the heart shaped flowers; looking from underneath shows the similarities to Corydalis. Again, while taking these photos, I noticed some nice white markings on the inside of the outer petals.

Corydalis vittae

I’ve mentioned Corydalis vittae a few times recently and it’s still going strong: the side profile, followed by the front profile. You’ll have to excuse the grubby fingers.

Dicentra cucullaria ‘Pink Punk’

Finally, Dicentra cucullaria ‘Pink Punk’. This plant has a nice twist on the usual Dicentra flowers, and as it’s cultivar name suggests, it has a slight pink colouring to the flowers. One last change of perspective illustrates how similar Dicentra flowers are in their structure to Corydalis.

Hopefully, I’ve illustrated my point. I thought I’d bombard you with examples and let them do the talking. Dicentra flowers aren’t usually seen from below, but in doing so, it quickly shows their close relationship to Corydalis. There are other similarities too: divided, fern-like leaves, and hairless, brittle stems being two that spring to mind.

Anyway, this is the sort of thing that occupies my mind, if left to my own devises. I hope you’ve found it mildly diverting! Enjoy the rest of your week.

8 thoughts on “Corydalis and Dicentra flowers”

  1. Barbara Williams

    I always read your blogs and find them interesting but I don’t usually comment. However, this time I hope you don’t mind but I thought I would because I found it particularly fascinating. Thank you for educating me!
    Love Mum

  2. A bit of anatomy of flowers and leaves, which I think falls within the real of botany is sadly lacking in many articles, in current day books. I like looking up close at the details of plants, and you have certainly informed or as Mrs Williams put it educated me. Many thanks.

  3. One thing I love about plants is what they reveal when looked at closely, such intricacies. An interesting and well illustrated botanical post! One question though: if the inner petals are fused and hide the anthers and stigma, how does pollination work, do they open up or do bees force them open?

    1. Thanks! They’re generally pollinated by bigger insects like bumblebees. They force the inner petals apart. It’s difficult to describe, but I’ll see if I can sort out a photo to illustrate!

      1. That would be interesting to see, my book on bumblebees does mention that this is a plant they like, so makes sense. I’ll keep an eye on mine too, which are flowering now (the Lamprocapnos).

  4. I was curious about Corydalis and dicentra because the leaves and growth are very similar so now I have both and look forward to welcoming them every Spring.
    Many thanks.

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