Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh.

Dutchman's Breeches

Dicentra cucullaria plant

Family - Fumariaceae

Stems - Plant acaulescent, from a scaly pinkish bulb and many smaller bulblets with fleshy roots.

Leaves - Basal, long-petiolate, trifoliolate. Petioles to -15cm long, glabrous. Leaflets petiolulate, pinnately divided again. Ultimate divisions glabrous, oblong to elliptic-oblong, with a minute mucronate tip, entire, green above, silvery-green below.

Dicentra cucullaria leaf

Dicentra cucullaria leaf

Inflorescence - Long pedunculate raceme arising from the bulb, arching at apex, glabrous. Pedicels to 6-7mm long, glabrous, each subtended by a small scalelike bract. Bract cupulate around base of pedicel, to 1.5mm long.

Dicentra cucullaria inflorescence

Flowers - Flowers glabrous. Outer 2 petals with extended saccate bases, to 1.5cm long, white, connate, with cupulate and reflexed apical lobes. The apical lobes with yellow at the base(the throat of the corolla). Inner 2 petals to 1cm long, connate around other floral organs, winged at apex. Stamens 6, erect. Filaments compressed and folded around the pistil, to 8mm long, 1mm broad at base, white with purple at apex, glabrous. Ovary superior, green, glabrous, 2-valved, unilocular, 7mm long, lance-ovoid, tapering to a short style. Stigma compressed, capitate. Sepals 4, in two pairs, decussate. First pair of sepals minute, whitish, acute, to 2mm long. Second pair ovate, to 4mm long, with pinkish midvein, rounded at apex.

Dicentra cucullaria flowerFlower close-up.

Flowering - April - May.

Habitat - Rich north facing slopes, ravines, rich slopes along streams.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This small plant is one of the most popular of the spring species. The plant is striking with or without flowers but has a short growing season. This species would be good in cultivation but another species, D. spectabilis (L.) DC. is much more popular. D. spectabilis is a more robust plant with pinkish-red flowers and is commonly known as "Bleeding Heart":

Dicentra spectabilis plant

D. spectabilis is native to Asia.

Photographs taken at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Boone County, MO., 3-20-04 and 3-27-04.