Corydalis – Colombina cava Corydalis cava, commonly called Colombina cava, is a spontaneous plant also cultivated as …

Corydalis-Colombina cava

Corydalis-Colombina quarry

Corydalis cava, commonly called Colombina quarry, is a spontaneous plant also cultivated as an ornamental in the open ground and in pots.


General characteristics of the Corydalis – Colombina quarry

There Colombina quarry belongs to the genus Corydalis of the Fumariaceae family. It is a perennial herbaceous plant spread spontaneously in almost all of Italy in uncultivated land, at the edge of hedges, in broad-leaved woods, from 0 to 1000 meters above sea level. This plant has also been cultivated for many years for ornamental purposes due to its resistance to adversity.


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The plant has a bulbous-fasciculated root, with numerous secondary or adventitious fasciculated roots. The bulb or tuber from firm and fleshy with time becomes hollow. The aerial part, about 25-30 cm high, is formed by erect, unbranched and scarcely leafy stems.

Corydalis - inflorescence

The leaves very similar to those of the Aquilegia, they are glaucous, of a green-grayish or green-bluish color, therefore covered with bloom a waxy substance that masks their own color. They have a pinnate shape, with wedge-shaped segments at the base and lobed at the apexes. The basal leaves, 3 – 4 times ternate with obtuse and mucronate apexes, form a grazing rosette while the cauline ones are generally alternate and opposite with a 3 times pinnatosette lamina.

The leaves are devoid of stipules (leaf expansions at the base of the petiole). In summer-autumn, the aerial part dries up but will be re-grown in the following spring.


THE flowers, hermaphrodite and nectariferous, are grouped in racemic inflorescences carried on the tops of the stems. The flowers, from 5 to 20, per inflorescence, are supported by ovate-oblong green bracts. The corolla is made up of 4 petals welded to the base; the upper one is larger, curved backwards with a shape that resembles a spur. The spur contains nectar. The color of the flowers ranges from white to pink, from blue-violet to purple.

THE fruits they are linear-spindle-shaped capsules, similar to siliques, containing seeds which, when released from the mature capsules, fall to the ground giving life to new Corydalis plants.

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THE seeds, small and black, they are wrapped in a fatty substance, called eleosome, rich in nutrients and which favors their dispersion mainly by ants.


The hollow columbine blooms in spring, in the month of March.

Corydalis- Cultivation

Corydalis cultivation – Colombina cava


It is a plant that loves humid shaded places or at most in the partial shade of the foliage of the trees or of the fencing hedges. In full sun it grows stunted. Protect from prolonged frost.


It prefers deep, humid, but well-drained soil and above all rich in organic matter. The ideal growing medium is one with a slightly acidic pH.

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Generally it is satisfied with rainwater but if the climate is dry it should be regularly watered especially during the vegetative restart, in the flowering period and in summer to avoid premature loss of leaves. The plant survives, but the soil will remain bare.



In autumn, before the bulbs are planted, the soil is enriched by administering mature manure at a depth of 3-5 cm.

Colombina cava: cultivation in pots

Corydalis plants, like tulips, are also easily grown in a planter about 30 cm wide and at least 60 cm long, containing common garden soil mixed with peat and sand. The plants should be placed at a distance of 15-20 cm. Water abundantly. The pot should be placed in an area sheltered from the sun and cold. In winter, the season in which the plants enter vegetative rest, the soil must be kept barely humid if the bulbs are left in place.


The Corydalis is repotted every year in spring.

Conservation of bulbs

If the bulbs are not left in place, once they have been extracted from the ground they must be dried in the air and then stored in a cool but not too dry place.

Multiplication Corydalis – Colombina cava

In nature the plant reproduces spontaneously by seed but can be propagated by agamic way by division of the tufts or tubers.

Propagation by division of the tufts

This propagation technique is carried out in autumn and is preferred to sowing.

  • When the leaves begin to dry, the plants are gently pulled out of the ground.
  • The most vigorous and healthy tufts are separated into several parts.
  • The divided tufts are immediately planted in well-worked and fertile holes.
  • Finally they are watered abundantly to favor their take root.

Planting or planting

Corydalis bulbs are planted in autumn in small groups, of three or five, at a distance of 20 cm from each other.

After planting, a light mulching with dry leaves must be carried out to minimize water loss.

Mulching can also be done with bark or pine needles, organic materials that help acidify the soil.

Colombina cava-Corydalis-matched


In the flowerbeds the Corydalis plants grow luxuriantly in the shade of plants that have the same pedoclimatic needs such as the Aspidistra plants.

Parasites and diseases of Corydalis

They are rustic plants that do not suffer from attacks by aphids and scale insects. However, they are sensitive to the larvae of some Lepidoptera which conspicuously ruin the leaves.

Cures and treatments

Corydalis plants require little cultivation care and from spring to autumn it is sufficient to renew the mulch. The leaves of plants infested with the pupae of mining insects should be cut and burned.

Corydalis - solid

Variety of Corydalis

The genus Corydalis contains about 300 different species of which about ten spontaneous in the Italian flora.

Solid Corydalis

Called vulgarly Solid Colombina, is a spontaneous perennial species widespread throughout Italy and owes its name to the consistency of the bulb which, unlike that of the Colombina cava, does not empty. It forms small bushes about 40 cm high formed by erect unbranched stems. During the flowering period, it produces purple flowers gathered in racemic inflorescences. The floral bracts are deeply engraved and the spur is arched.

Corydalis intermedia

There Medium Colombina it is a species of reduced size, just over 10 cm tall, it has lower leaves with a large scale. The racemic inflorescences are formed by very few purple or pinkish-white flowers.

Corydalis pumila

The Corydalis pumila or Columbine minor, generally it does not exceed 20 cm in height. In spring it produces inflorescences composed of sparse pink-purple flowers, tinged with white. It grows spontaneously almost everywhere in Italy.

Corydalis capnoides

White columbine, a spontaneous species that grows spontaneously in the regions of northern Italy. It is up to 30 cm high and unlike the others it has no bulb. It produces inflorescences composed mostly of numerous white flowers.

Corydalis capnoides


Corydalis plants are widely used in gardening to embellish rock gardens, upholster walls or as borders in flower beds.

Medicinal use of Corydalis cava

In the past, the tuber of Corydalis was used as an analgesic, pain reliever and as a sedative. Recent studies attribute to Corydalis an antitumor, cardiotonic and hypotensive activity.

The tuber or bulb of this plant is studied for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and in China it is traditionally used in the treatment of a wide range of ailments.

Is Corydalis poisonous?

This plant is part of the list of poisonous spontaneous plants in fact all its parts are toxic by ingestion especially the tubers because they are rich in alkaloids especially bulbocapnina a substance that causes serious damage to the central nervous system.


The etymology of the name Corydalis derives from the Greek word Korydalis which means lark and refers to the spur of the flower which resembles the rear finger of the larks. Other etymologies refer to the resemblance of the flower to the animal’s crest when it senses a danger.

Photo gallery Corydalis

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