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Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh.
USDA Symbol: DICU
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
Dense, 10 in. high masses of deeply cut, fern-like leaves subtend a naked flower stalk bearing a row of nodding, double-spurred, white flowers. Clusters of fragrant, white, pantaloon-shaped flowers are on a leafless stalk and overtop the much-divided, feathery basal leaves. This woodland perennial can spread to cover considerable areas.
The generic name of this delicate spring ephemeral flower derives from the Greek for two-spurred. The flowers are pollinated by early bumblebees, whose proboscis is long enough to tap the nectar. Honeybees, with a shorter proboscis, can gather only the pollen with their front feet. Squirrel Corn (D. canadensis), closely related to Dutchmans Breeches, is often found in the same habitats. Its flowers, however, are heart-shaped. The root tubers resemblance to corn kernels accounts for its common name. The plant goes dormant in early summer.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Flower:
Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May
AL , AR , CT , DC , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV Canada: MB
, QC Native Distribution:
E. Que. to MN, s. to n. GA, AL & e. KS; also near the Columbia R. in WA, OR & ID Native Habitat:
Rich or rocky, deciduous
woods & ravines USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N)
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Soil Description: Humus-rich, acid to neutral soils. Tolerates limestone
BenefitUse Wildlife: Bees
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Toxic only in large quantities. Causes minor skin irritation when touched, lasting only for a few minutes. Symptoms includes trembling, staggering, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, labored breathing. Skin irritation after repeated contact with the cell sap. Toxic Principle: Several isoquinolone alkaloids. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Deer Resistant: Moderate
PropagationDescription: Propagate by division of crowns and tubers in fall or early spring, or by seed. Plant large tubers about 1 in. deep; smaller ones 1/2 in. deep. Seeds should be planted immediately or stored in damp sphagnum moss. Sow seeds and sphagnum in a thin layer
Seed Collection: Store in damp sphagnum moss.
Seed Treatment: Seed requires 2-3 months of moist chilling before germination.
Commercially Avail: yes
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Record Modified: 2012-07-31
Research By: TWC Staff