Fumitories & allies

Common Fumitory Pale Corydalis White Ramping Fumitory Yellow Corydalis

What are they?

A group of low-growing, herbaceous plants with slightly fleshy leaves and distinctively-structured, tubular flowers. Some species grow from underground tubers, while others favour growing directly from cracks in walls. The fumitories, corydalises and related species were formerly placed in their own family - the Fumariaceae - but more recent research considers them to be part of a larger poppy family (Papaveraceae).

Where are they found?

The fumitories are mostly annuals of cultivated ground and are most likely to be found on arable field edges or in gardens. Corydalis species may be found either on heathland or on walls, while the tuberous species are most likely to be found in churchyard sites.

Identification

The first step to identifying this group is to recognise the distinctive flower shape, that separates them from all other plant groups. The flowers have four petals, with the upper by far the largest and having a broadly rounded spur at the base. The upper and lateral petals are often darker-coloured at the tip, while the lower petal is usually much smaller and distinctly narrower than the other petals, often with a broader, spoon-shaped tip. Flowers are key to identifying the species, with some identifiable from details of the flower colour, combined with details of the flower bract. In the fumitories, it is often also necessary to note the shape of the seed capsule - which may require another visit to the plant at a later date, though flowers and fruits may both be present at the same time.



Common Fumitory      Fumaria officinalis

An early introduction, perhaps brought to Britain by Neolithic settlers. Widespread and common as weed of cultivated and disturbed ground on all but the heaviest soils. Flowers April to October. By far the commonest of the fumitories in our area, with bright pink flowers and very fine foliage. Sepals 2-3.5mm long, small and relatively narrow.

Common Fumitory Common Fumitory Common Fumitory Common Fumitory
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Flower with short, narrow sepal
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Common Ramping Fumitory      Fumaria muralis

Native. Uncommon and local in the region with most records from coastal areas from north-east Norfolk to north-east Suffolk and again in south-east Suffolk. Recently increasing slightly as a weed of urban areas. Flowers May to October. Flowers pink and white, paler than those of Common Fumitory, 9-12mm long. Sepals 3-5mm long, short but relatively broad. Lower petal not spathulate. Foliage slightly coarser with broader lobes than that of Common Fumitory.

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Flower with short, broad sepal
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Dense-flowered Fumitory      Fumaria densiflora

Archaeophyte. Rare as an annual of disturbed ground on chalky soil. Recently found on the Norfolk coast where probably introduced accidentally, but may increase with warmer summers. Flowers June to October. Flowers pink and white, paler than those of Common Fumitory, 6-7mm long. Sepals very broad, 2-3.5mm long, short but relatively broad and flaring out at the sides like little wings. Lower petal vaguely spathulate at the tip.

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Tall Ramping Fumitory      Fumaria bastardii

Archaeophyte. Very rare as an annual of disturbed ground. Recently found on the Norfolk coast and seemingly the first East Anglian record for 100 years, but may increase with warmer summers. Flowers June to October. Flowers pale pink, paler than those of Common Fumitory, 9-12mm long. Sepals toothed for most of their margin, 2-3mm long. Lower petal parallel-sided, not spathulate at the tip. Note: recent Norfolk plants have been of the variety hibernica which, unlike UK plants from western Britain, have a dark tip to the upper petal, like most other fumitories.

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White Ramping Fumitory      Fumaria capreolata

Native in south-east Suffolk from Ipswich and Woodbridge to Felixstowe and Shotley but only a scarce casual elsewhere when occasionally introduced with soil or gravel. Flowers April to June. Flowers relatively large, creamy white, with a dark, blackish-purple tip. Sepals 4-6mm long, large and relatively broad.

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Flower with long, broad sepal
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Fine-leaved Fumitory      Fumaria parviflora

Archeophyte. A scarce and declining species of arable and disturbed land on chalky soils in the west of our region. Flowers June to September. Flowers small, white, with a dark purple tip. Sepals less than 1mm long, small and relatively deeply toothed. Leaves narrow, with the deeply cut sections clearly grooved.

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Yellow Corydalis      Pseudofumaria lutea

Introduced. A widespread and quite common plant that is almost always found growing from old brick or stone walls, where it can be an eye-catching feature. Flowers April to August. Flowers rich, deep yellow.

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Pale Corydalis      Pseudofumaria alba

Introduced. Almost always found growing from old brick or stone walls. Rather rare, with only a handful of locations noted by the regional flora atlases. However, more recent sightings suggest that it might be increasing and it could feasibly occur wherever there are walls to grow upon! Flowers April to August. Flowers white with a yellow tip.

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Climbing Corydalis      Ceratocapnos claviculata

Native. Found on acid soils where heathy conditions prevail and most common in areas dominated by bracken and/or birch scrub. Flowers April to August. Usually an annual, but plants may overwinter in mild years. Plants trail over the ground or scramble through vegetation by means of tendril on the leaves and produce tight clusters of tubular, creamy white flowers.

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Bird-in-a-bush      Corydalis solida

Introduced as a garden bulb and occasionally found in the wider countryside in damp woodland or churchyards. Flowers late March to April. Pink or purplish flowers appear in spring from an underground tuber. The bracts at the bases of the flowers are deeply cut into fingered fringes.

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Hollowroot      Corydalis cava

Introduced as a garden bulb and occasionally found in the wider countryside in damp woodland or churchyards. Rarer than the previous species. Flowers late March to April. Pinkish or white flowers appear in spring from an underground tuber. The bracts at the bases of the flowers are simple and not deeply cut into fingered fringes.

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