'Chocolate Stars' Corydalis
or, Chinese Rock Harlequin
"Arise, O idle dreamer! Dreams are sweet,'Chocolate Stars' Corydalis emerges in spring with the most splendid chocolate brown leaves, large slightly serated leaves, not the ferny leaves of so many corydalises.
But better flowers are growing at your feet."
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The leaves remain chocolate colored early spring through June, but by late June has faded to an ordinary green. The loss of the leaves' nearly coleas-like colorfulness can be disappointing, but really it's a fine foliage plant in both color phases.
It blooms for us late march, all of April & early June. It may bloom a bit later further north. The tubular flowers are a very pale lavender-violet, in the shape of fish swimming over the surface of the foliage.
This is being marketed as a select strain of Corydalis quantmeyeranga, which is synonymous with C. temulifolia, which is probably its more up-to-date name. It was introduced in 2007 by Darwin PlantSpotters, derived from seeds obtained in China in 1999.
A mature clump is a foot & a half tall & two feet wide, potentially larger. It's cold hardy to Zone five, ideal for zones seven & eight.
It's not as sensitive to dryness as is just about every other corydalis. Though not quite drought-hardy, it even so likes sharply draining soil, or placement amidst the roots of a loose shrub that provides it with broken shade & keeps the soil from staying too damp.
If placed in a shady cool spot, it won't die back in the heat of summer as do some corydalis species. It can do well in more sunlight rather than bright shade, but if too sunned & hot in summer may die back prematurely or not look its freshest, & will need more water than when shaded.
It reportedly likes slightly alkaline soil & said to benefit from a feeding of lime, but we never feed ours which is doing great in loamy acidic soil.
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