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

Dicentra cucullaria

Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh.

Dutchman's Breeches

Fumariaceae (Fumitory Family)

Synonym(s): Bicuculla cucullaria, Dicentra cucullaria var. occidentalis, Dicentra occidentalis


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

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 Dutchman's 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.


From the Image Gallery

39 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 1 foot tall when flowering.

Bloom Information

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


USA: 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 , 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

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Bumble Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: 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

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 928 - 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens (2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Dicentra cucullaria in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Dicentra cucullaria in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Dicentra cucullaria


Record Modified: 2023-02-06
Research By: TWC Staff

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