Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh.
Fumariaceae (Fumitory Family)
Synonym(s): Bicuculla cucullaria, Dicentra cucullaria var. occidentalis, Dicentra occidentalis
USDA Symbol: dicu
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
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 1 foot tall when flowering.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
DistributionUSA: 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 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
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Bumble Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
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
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 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 ReferenceWebref 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 resourcesUSDA: Find Dicentra cucullaria in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Dicentra cucullaria in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Dicentra cucullaria
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-02-06
Research By: TWC Staff