Purple Spring Cress

Cardamine douglassii Britt.

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Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)
State Protection
Listed as Threatened by New York State: likely to become Endangered in the foreseeable future. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure in New York - Uncommon in New York but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of the state; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


State Ranking Justification

There are 8 extant occurrences and about 40 historical occurrences yet to be checked, probably not uncommon.

Conservation and Management



In New York purple cress has been found in a variety sites, generally with moist to wet, rich soils. These include wet places within upland deciduous forests, steambeds, alluvial woods and fields, swampy pastures, springs, and calcareous swamps (New York Natural Heritage Program 2010). Rich woods, bluffs, mesic bottomland forests, rocky hillsides, floodplains, seepage of bogs, springy areas (FNA 2010). Low rich deciduous woods, floodplains (Voss 1985).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Floodplain forest* (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on mineral soils on low terraces of river floodplains and river deltas. These sites are characterized by their flood regime; low areas are annually flooded in spring, and high areas are flooded irregularly.
  • Maple-basswood rich mesic forest* (guide)
    A species rich hardwood forest that typically occurs on well-drained, moist soils of circumneutral pH. Rich herbs are predominant in the ground layer and are usually correlated with calcareous bedrock, although bedrock does not have to be exposed. The dominant trees are sugar maple, basswood, and white ash.
  • Pastureland*
    Agricultural land permanently maintained (or recently abandoned) as a pasture area for livestock.
  • Rich mesophytic forest* (guide)
    A hardwood or mixed forest that resembles the mixed mesophytic forests of the Allegheny Plateau south of New York but is less diverse. It occurs on rich, fine-textured, well-drained soils that are favorable for the dominance of a wide variety of tree species. A canopy with a relatively large number of codominant trees characterizes this forest. Canopy codominants include five or more of the following species: red oak, red maple, white ash, American beech, sugar maple, black cherry, cucumber tree, and black birch.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
  • Asarum canadense (wild ginger)
  • Cardamine concatenata (cut-leaved toothwort)
  • Carpinus caroliniana
  • Caulophyllum thalictroides (blue cohosh, late blue cohosh)
  • Chrysosplenium americanum (golden-carpet)
  • Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
  • Hepatica nobilis
  • Larix laricina (tamarack)
  • Lonicera tatarica (Tartarian honeysuckle)
  • Ostrya virginiana (hop hornbeam, ironwood)
  • Pinus strobus (white pine)
  • Trillium grandiflorum (white trillium)
  • Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)


New York State Distribution

Throughout the state.

Identification Comments

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Flowering individuals are best for identification.

Best Time to See

Flowering shoots appear in late April, and the fruits appear in early May. By July the fruiting stalks may start to disappear.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Purple Spring Cress flowering and fruiting in New York.


Purple Spring Cress
Cardamine douglassii Britt.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Capparales
          • Family Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Purple Cress

Comments on the Classification

The authority for this species is sometimes cited as "Torrey, in Torrey & A. Gray (1838)" however, Arabis douglassii was listed by Torrey as a synonym only.

Additional Resources


Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Voss, E.G. 1985. Michigan flora. Part II. Dicotyledons. Cranbrook Institute of Science and University of Michigan Herbarium. Ann Arbor, Michigan. 1212 pp.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: August 9, 2011

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Cardamine douglassii. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/purple-cress/. Accessed April 16, 2024.