Content Detail

Toothwort creates early to late spring interest in gardens, borders, and flower beds with showy, white to pinkish, fragrant flowers and interesting foliage. The toothwort name derives from the toothlike projections that grow on the stems and rhizomes underground. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Mustard
  • Family (botanic) Brassicaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Small plant (6-12 inches)
  • Light exposure Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Occasional flooding
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, late spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink, White
  • Shape or form Creeping
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Wildlife Butterflies, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Rhizomes of toothwort can be divided when dormant. Toothwort can also be spread through fresh seeds, as the seeds of toothwort do not store well. This is a small plant that is generally 6 to 12 inches tall but can reach 15 inches in ideal conditions.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Toothwort is native to the Eastern and Central United States. C-Value: 5

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Toothwort attracts early-season butterflies, several species of bees, and bee flies. Some weevils will appear during May on the siliques, and beetles, ants, and bees will be drawn to the flowers. Toothwort is often a source of food for the white-footed mouse. 

Leaf description:

Toothwort leaves are primarily at the base of the plant (basal), but the flower stalks will have leaves in groups (whorls) of three. The leaves have three rounded divisions (lobes) and toothed edges (serrate margins), but the leaves can appear to be five-parted rather than three-parted. The foliage of toothwort turns yellow and sheds by the early summertime. 

Flower description:

Symmetrical, bell-shaped flowers with four petals and four sepals appear on the loose, short, unbranched flower stem with flowers that mature from the bottom upward (terminal racemes) of toothwort. The petals are often white but can be tinged with pink. The sepals are green with some hints of purple. 

Fruit description:

The flowers will give way to green fruits that look like tiny green beans or seed pods without seams (siliques) that will mature to a yellow-brown color. When touched, the mature siliques will open to expel 10 to 14 small, brown seeds. 

Plant care:

Generally low maintenance, this is a plant that will go dormant in the summer. Toothwort prefers moist conditions, so make sure to maintain moisture. 

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Toothwort has no major issues with pests and diseases.


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