The first open flowers of this species typically appear 2-5 days before the similar Cardamine diphylla, with which it often grows in the Green Bay area. There are usually three leaves per stem, each with more than 3 leaflets as opposed to C. diphylla with two leaves and three leaflets per leaf.
Based on herbarium label descriptions this species is found in a wide variety of mostly deciduous forests. In the Green Bay area it appears to be most often associated with moist soils, perhaps reaching its maximum on terraces of local stream valleys. Together with the similar Cardamine diphylla it seems to tolerate soils depleted of leaf layer by earthworms better than many others of the spring flowers. Both species produce robust rhizomes and form conspicuous, contiguous populations in the spring understory.