Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - January 23, 2016

From: Rosedale, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Medicinal Plants, Poisonous Plants, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Herbal properties of Dicentra formosa
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I would like to get some information on the Dicentra formosa plant such as the benefits of the plant. Is it poisonous? Can it be infused in an oil?

ANSWER:

Be wary of Dicentra formosa (Pacific bleeding heart)! This herbaceous plant has drooping clusters of pink, heart-shaped flowers, flushed with lavender, that are attached to the leafless stems of this perennial. Pink, heart-shaped flowers hang in small, branched clusters above soft, fern-like, bluish-green leaves at base. The airy, fern-like foliage occurs on separate stalks. Pacific bleeding heart grows from 6-18 in. in height.

Now the serious message from our website that leads to a caution about using it only under direct medical professional supervision: 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.) 

A web search turned up the following information from the Evergreen State College about the herbal properties of Dicentra formosa ... Has been used as a tonic for strengthening and healing, a narcotic-analgesic for pain and central nervous system disorders. The root is the strongest part, and a tincture of the root has been used for sore teeth, lost fillings, or mouth trauma. Any part of the plant can be applied locally to painful sprains, bruises, or contusions. Internally, a tincture has been used to calm down from shaky nervousness, or uncontrollable anger as an aftermath of physical violence, an accident, etc. A century ago, bleeding heart tonic was used to strengthen people with long-standing syphilis. The tonic increases appetite, stimulates liver metabolism, and generally helps anabolic functions in people who have been sick for long periods of time (Moore:81-82).

The Skagit have used the pounded roots in a decoction for worm medicine. They have also used an infusion of the crushed plants as a wash to make hair grow. The raw roots have been chewed for toothaches (Moerman:199).

Do not use Bleeding heart medicinally if pregnant, for overt neuropathies, or with prescription medications. It may induce a false positive in urine testing for opiates (Moore:82).

Also, the plant is listed as poisonous due to the alkaloids present in all parts of the plant, but especially the leaves. Any part of the plant may also cause skin irritation on contact. Signs of poisoning are: trembling, loss of balance, staggering, weakness, difficulty in breathing, and convulsions (Roberts:19)

 

From the Image Gallery


Pacific bleeding heart
Dicentra formosa

Pacific bleeding heart
Dicentra formosa

Pacific bleeding heart
Dicentra formosa

Pacific bleeding heart
Dicentra formosa

More Medicinal Plants Questions

Edible Plants of Florida
April 06, 2015 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants My name is Gabriel Bedoya; Im anthropologist, with large experience in research of traditional culinary, symbolic systems and native kitchens. Due to my experience in those s...
view the full question and answer

Growing fruits and vegetables from Holbrook NY
April 06, 2012 - I have been looking for information on what plants, vegetables and fruits can be grown on Long Island NY to provide a sustainable food source for a community in the event of food becoming scarce. Wha...
view the full question and answer

Different colors of Argemone spp. from McAllen TX
March 16, 2014 - I took pictures of at least 5 colors of pricklepoppy today. Is this common to have so many colors in one area? How do I harvest the seedpods and when is the best time to do so?
view the full question and answer

Possibility of native plants as natural mosquito repellants
February 08, 2007 - I live in Austin Texas and have what I would consider a mosquito infestation in my garden for most of the year. Are there native plants to this region that are proven to be naturally mosquito repella...
view the full question and answer

Herbalism and Native American EthnoBotany
June 25, 2007 - What plants cure diarrhea?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.