Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Dicentra cucullaria

Dutchman's breeches

Fumariaceae (Fumitory Family)

Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches)
Smith, R.W.
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.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Size Class: 0-1 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AL , AR , CT , GA , ID , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NH , NJ , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VT , VA , WA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: MB , NB , NS , ON , PE , 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

Growing Conditions

Light 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


Use 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

Last Update: 2013-09-09