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Corydalis ophiocarpa


A curious biennial Corydalis. It’s cream flower and ferny bronze-ish foliage are understated, but it’s interest lies in it’s peculiar growth habit, stem shape and twisted seed pods.

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Some die poorly: that guy who goes to the toilet in Jurassic Park. Some die well: Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park. Corydalis ophiocarpa dies well. It’s short biennial life cycle is vigorous and floriferous (yet somehow unimpressive for all it’s abundance of flowers), but it’s most attractive feature is it’s bronze-hued senescence. Old leaves bronze and wither, as does the whole plant, as it heads into the autumn of it’s second and final year.

Corydalis ophiocarpa etymology

Like so many plants with a biennial life cycle, in nature it is an opportunist. It takes advantage of clearings and disturbed ground, completing it’s life cycle while conditions are favourable, and you’ll find it doing just that in your garden. Despite this, should you want to remove it, it isn’t difficult to do so. A quick pull, or a flick of the hoe, does the job.

Corydalis ophiocarpa

Corydalis ophiocarpa is best described as a curiosity. It has a number of characteristics that are interesting, but not particularly outstanding. The seed pods that give it it’s name dangle down in twisted adundance, and the stems have ‘wings’ which branch into side shoots, amongst other things. Perhaps the highlight is in the autumn of it’s final year, where the foliage takes on it’s bronze colouring.

To explore further:

Project Pages

Despite not being a particularly showy plant, this is one for the curious gardener, and any explorers of the Corydalis genus. It is very easy to grow, and offers much for those who’s are interests are intellectual rather than aesthetic.

Flower colour


Flowering period

June to September

Height and spread (cm)

30 x 50

Number of seeds



Most conditions are suitable, with the exception of extremely dry areas.


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