Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Heartleaf Foamflower - Tiarella cordifolia   L.
Members of Saxifragaceae:
Only member of Tiarella in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Rosales » Family Saxifragaceae
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AuthorL.
DistributionThroughout the Mountains and Piedmont, though slightly less widespread in the far northeastern counties in the Piedmont. Barely ranges into the Coastal Plain, along the Cape Fear River into Cumberland County. For some odd reason, there seem to be no specimens in SERNEC from east of Granville and Wake counties, though sight records are known. Apparently absent from the well-worked Roanoke River floodplain and slopes in Halifax and Northampton counties.

This is a widespread Eastern species from eastern Canada south to southern AL and MS. It is scarce on the Coastal Plain.
AbundanceCommon and widespread across all of the Mountains, and nearly across all of the Piedmont. However, infrequent in the far northeastern Piedmont and also the far southeastern counties -- yet in Wake, Lee, and Harnett counties -- between these two regions, this is a very numerous species. Rare and local into the Coastal Plain in Cumberland County.
HabitatThis is a classic species of rich wooded slopes. It grows in many or most Rich Cove Forests, Basic Mesic Forests, and richer Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forests. It also can grow in bottomland forests, though it prefers to grow on slopes. It is not as limited to seepages or other wet/damp ground, or rocky ground, as are other members of the saxifrage family. It often grows in fairly dense stands of several dozen plants.
See also Habitat Account for Rich Wet-Mesic Hardwood Forests
PhenologyBlooms from April into June, and fruits shortly after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a very familiar spring wildflower, known to all biologists, unless they restrict their field work to the Coastal Plain. As with others in the family, it has several rather large basal leaves, on long petioles. These petioles are about 4-5 inches long, and each blade is roughly rounded to heart-shaped, 3-4 inches long and wide, cordate at the base, weakly dissected into 3-5 shallow lobes, and strongly serrated along the margin. These leaves look remarkably like those of Heuchera species, and thus you may need to wait until a flowering stalk is present for identification. This stalk grows to about 1-1.5 feet tall, naked, with the top 4-5 inches containing a dense and conical panicle of white flowers. The inflorescence contains several dozen flowers, each being about 1/3-inch across, but the white spire of flowers about 1.5-2 inches wide and about 4-5 inches long is hard to miss when you are walking on a rich wooded slope. Why it seems to be absent along the rich Roanoke River slopes, and in nearby areas, and along the SC line near the Fall Line, is puzzling.
Taxonomic CommentsMany references list several varieties of the species, including RAB (1968). However, Weakley (2018) admits difficulty in identifying specimens based on varietal differences, and has "opted (without great confidence) for a broad approach". As this website follows his taxonomy, no varieties are treated here.

Other Common Name(s)Foamflower, Allegheny Foamflower, False Miterwort, Coolwort. As there is another species in the Western states, using Foamflower in the name -- i.e., Lace Foamflower (T. trifoliata), it is certainly best to use the single word "Foamflower" for the common name for the genus, and not a particular species. Thus, NatureServe and this website add a modifier name for the widespread eastern species -- most frequent is Heartleaf Foamflower (or Heart-leaved Foamflower). Of course, in normal usage in NC, the species can certainly just be called as "Foamflower".
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