Climbing Corydalis, Ceratocapnos claviculata

This little plant grows in our patch of Ninewells wood and it is quite common through the rest of the woodland. It is not spectacular and I have not seen it climb that much, though it does have fine delicate tendrils at the ends of its leaves which are presumably used for the purpose of climbing. I quite like it for its delicate almost ‘tentative’ habit.

It is related to the Fumitories but is not in the same genus. This is the only native species of Corydalis in the UK, there are two other introduced species, the Yellow Corydalis  and  a species which I can’t recall having ever seen called Bird in a Bush. The Yellow Corydalis is often encountered growing out of walls especially in sunny positions.

The flowers of Climbing Corydalis are quite small and white with a hint of yellow/brown, from a distance they look similar in shape to the flowers of Milkwort, also they look like the fumitory flowers as you would expect.   The leaves are quite complex, each little oval leaf is really a leaflet and is part of a larger compound leaf and as I said the leaf terminates with a little tendril.

I have seen it growing at most times of the year, certainly throughout the winter and so I would say it is not an annual, as is sometimes stated in several wildflower books. Indeed most woodland plants are perennials as there is insufficient light available in one year to complete a life cycle and to efficiently produce sufficient seed to ensure its survival through to the next year. So I would say that it is a plant which will endure for several seasons. It was one of the field layer plants which seemed to cope quite well under the dense canopy of the Corsican Pines which grew in our wood when we first purchased it. Since their removal it may have declined or maybe it is just harder to spot amongst all the other species which have emerged.

There is a small weevil which lives on it  called the Climbing Corydalis Weevil or  Procas granulicollis, evidently it was thought to be endemic to the UK but recently one was found in Spain…what a pain. Anyway thanks to the Beetle web site this is what it looks like. The photo  was taken by Dr Roger Key, thanks for permission to use it.

It would appear to be rather rare with only a few recorded sightings throughout the UK. This could reflect a lack of observation or a genuine low population. I will have a good look for it in Ninewells wood. It would be great to get my own little square added to the map.


According to another web site Arkive;  Adults have been found in the wild between March and August and December and January. Highest numbers occur from late April to the end of June. This suggests that this species breeds in summer, and the new generation of adults overwinters after emerging in August. However, more research is needed to determine if this is the case.

So my chances may be quite slim. 

Following some correspondence with a lady called Anne who follows this blog and also regularly visits Ninewells wood, I found some Climbing Corydalis growing on the perimeter wall and here are some photos showing that it not only grows throughout the winter but is just about flowering, so I am even less convinced of its annual status. Here are some photos I took (January 2017) Also 3 photos from April 2019 which show that it has spread and is doing very well.

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Here is a link to my blog about Ninewells Wood and the perimiter (Napoleonic) Wall.

A further up date (11/05/2018) Yesterday  I had a walk round an area of Ninewells wood which was felled a couple of years ago, and lots of little plants popping up. It will be pink with Foxgloves in a couple of months but in among the brash and developing Silver Birch and Pines there was lots and lots of Climbing Corydalis also some Lousewort and others.

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4 thoughts on “Climbing Corydalis, Ceratocapnos claviculata

  1. I meant to reply to this blog ages ago. Sorry. This is one of my favourite flowers. I have only found it in Ninewells on the Napoleonic wall : right at the end by the metal farm gate. There is a large colony at Loysey Wood, where the pines have been cleared and the land falls steeply away into the Usk valley. It was still blooming well last week.I could work out a map ref if you wished. I find your blogs so detailed and useful. Very many thanks.


    1. Thanks, it does grow in our bit of Ninewells but I could not find it last week. I will have a look along the Napoleonic wall bit.


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