Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Fumariaceae

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

These charming relatives of the Bleeding-Heart like a damp wooded hillside, more often a gentle slope than a steep incline. The flowers really do  look like old-fashioned pairs of breeches hung upside-down to dry. “Pretty, but odd” is Gray’s description. These plants were growing in Bird Park in Mount Lebanon, where they were blooming in late March (in a year when spring came very early).

Gray describes the genus and the species:

DICÉNTRA Berah.Petals slightly cohering into a heart-shaped or 2-spurred corolla, either deciduous or withering-persistent. Stigma 2-crested and sometimes 2-horned. Filaments slightly united into two sets. Pod 10-20-seeded. Seeds crested. — Low stemless perennials (as to our wild species) with ternately compound and dissected leaves, and racemose nodding flowers. Pedicels 2-bracted. (Name from distwice, and kentron, a spur; —accidentally printed Diclytra in the first instance, which by an erroneous conjecture was changed afterwards into Dielytra.) Bikukulla Adans. Bicuculla Millsp.

Raceme simple, few-flowered.

D. Cucullària (L.) Bernh. (Dutchman’s Breeches.) Scape and slender-petioled leaves from a sort of granulate bulb; lobes of leaves linear; corolla with 2 divergent spurs longer than the pedicel; crest of the inner petals minute. (Bicuculla Millsp.) — Rich woods, N. S. to L. Huron and Minn., s. to N. C. and Mo. — A very delicate plant, sending up in early spring, from the cluster of grain-like tubers crowded together in the form of a scaly bulb, the finely cut leaves and the slender scape, bearing 4-10 pretty, but odd, white flowers tipped with cream-color.


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