Serpent-pod Fumitory; or,
This fumitory from the eastern Himalayas is called Corydalis ophiocarpa, the species name meaning "snake pod," because when it goes to seed, the pods look like little green eels or serpents.
The flowers are not as showy as for many corydalis species, but the spring & autumn blooms are very appealing on closer inspection. The racemes of tubular cream-colored flowers have red to purple tips. The branching spikes occur May & June, with autumn rebloom.
Serpent-pod Fumitory loves shade or semi-shade garden. It grows one to two tall, with considerable spread.
The bronzy blue-green ferny leaves are long-lasting as cut foliage for bouquets. At autumn's end the foliage often turns a rich chocolatey brown without entirely dying back in winter. But in the mild winter we had in 2002/03, it never turned brown, requiring a few good hard chills to change colors, which it didn't experience. In our zone, when in a protected garden, it is fully evergreen, but does need to be sheered dramatically at the start of spring to make room for new growth.
It tends to self-seed with some ease, which makes up for the original clump being occasionally shortlived. It might never die out of the garden so long as there is loose organically rich soil nearby into which it can cast its own seeds.
At the height of summer after it is finished blooming, the whole plant becomes about one-third dormant, but not to the point that it dies back, unless the soil entirely dries out.
Though I've tried above to treat the plant in all fairness, I have to admit that even after we had it in our garden about a year & a half, I had never quite liked its appearance whether at its best or in its off-seasons. Well into its second year, it had gotten quite large & was overshadowing much finer shade-plants. I had to make a decision whether to transplant it where it would not trouble delicate things, or compost it. I fretted over this decision for a month, but when Granny Artemis remarked that it was her least favorite thing in that shade-garden, the decision was made; it was off to the compost heap for the poor ol' Serpent-pod.
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