Flowering Time Spring
Fruiting Time Late spring, summer
Planting Time Winter
Where to Plant Shady slopes, open woodlands, edges of grasslands
Soil and Light Tolerates a variety of soils, part shade, full shade
Companion Plants Native ferns, Oaks, Tan Oak, Redwood, Houndstongue, native lilies
Wildlife Butterflies (Sara Orangetip), moths, insects
Cardamine californica or Dentaria californica
Milkmaids are ecologically important, providing food and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including insects, birds, and small mammals. They are one of the first wildflowers to bloom in California, often appearing in February, which makes them an important food source for early-emerging insects.
Dainty white flowers bloom in a cluster on a stem that can grow to about 1 foot. The more dappled the shade, the shorter the stem.
Milkmaids must be treated gently in the wild and the garden as they easily bruise. It will not die as it is hardy, but it may result in reduced blooms. That extra attention is worth the effort. It is a beneficial plant for early pollinators and a delight to come upon when not much else is in bloom.
It grows in various habitats, from chaparral and grasslands to its preferred shady slopes and open woodlands. This perennial plant gently spreads by seed and occasionally creates clusters of plants faithfully returning every year. It likes to be at the edge and often reseeds the front of a site or garden bed.
The flower may be hard to spot in the late afternoon as the sun goes down and it closes its petals or in the rain to protect the pollen.