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Family:     Papaveraceae (Poppy family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     10 - 20 cm (4 - 8 in)

Blooming: March - May

 

Dutchman's Breeches

Dicentra cucullaria  (L.) Bernh.

Flowers: 3-14 drooping flowers in the shape of a stolen pair of breeches from an 18th century Dutchman.  The pedicels are usually 4-7 mm (0.16-0.28 in) long.  Flower petals are white with sometimes a pink blush.  The top of the flower is yellow to orange-yellow.  The "breeches" are actually flower nectar spurs of the corolla.

Leaves: yellowish-green divided leaves.  The leaf blade can have four orders of leaflets and lobes.  

Fruits: elongated capsules that diminish at both ends.

Sun: Part sun to shade.

Ideal conditions: Rich soil in woodland shade.

Comments: Dutchman's breeches are spring treat as with its closely related sister, squirrel-corn (Dicentra canadensis).  Naturalist and essayist, John Burroughs, praised both of these as "...among our prettiest spring flowers".  He went on to claim that the gorgeous flower was "absurdly called 'Dutchman's breeches'". 19th Century writer, Julia McNair Wright proclaimed, “what a pity that these absurd or vulgar names fasten upon some of our daintiest flowers!”

 

They both can grow together but there has been no evidence of hybridization.  The ​bulblets on the squirrel-corn are round and yellow looking like corn whereas the Dutchman has pink bulbets that look like teardrops.  The flowers of squirrel-corn have short, rounded nectar spurs and a delicious fragrance.  Usually, the Dutchman blooms a week sooner than its squirrelly sister. 

Both Dicentra cucullaria and D. canadensis are pollinated by long-tongued insects and bumblebees.  Ants are their seed delivery trucks.

Dutchman's breeches are the most toxic of the Dicentra genus.  

Etymology: Dicentra is derived from the Greek words di- and kentron which translates to "two spurs". The species name cucullaria simply means "hooded".    

  

photo by Nathanael Pilla

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Landscape: a lovely woodland flower that will do well on the north side of your home or where there just isn't too much sun.

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photo by Dominick Pilla

photo by Na. J. Pilla

Species Present and Native