Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's Breeches)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Dicentra
Family:Fumariaceae (Fumitory)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich woods
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:4 to 12 inches
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] 3 to 14 white, occasionally pink, stalked flowers hanging down in a raceme at the end of a naked stem that rises above the leaves. The raceme may be erect but often leans or arches over. Individual flowers are about ¾ inch long with 2 opposing spurs that give the flower a triangular to arrowhead shape in outline. There are 2 pale yellow lobes at the base of the flower that open up like wings, revealing the stamens and style.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, usually 2 per flowering stem, compound, thrice divided into lacy, narrowly oblong to linear segments. Leaflets are up to 1¼ inch long and 1 inch wide; leaf color is gray-green to bluish-green. Stems are smooth and usually brown.

Fruit:

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a bean-like capsule about ½ inch long and tapering at both ends. Inside are kidney-shaped seeds about 2 millimeters long.

Notes:

A widespread species in Minnesota, Dutchman's Breeches is one of the heralds of spring. Similar species is Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis), which is limited to the southeast corner of the state and has virtually identical leaves but more heart-shaped flowers with rounded spurs.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, Anoka County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken near Reshanau Lake, Anoka County, and in Goodhue County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: mike h
on: 2009-05-13 10:45:55
I've got thousands of these in the woods behind my house
Posted by: Nancy - Brainerd
on: 2010-04-29 17:05:49

I have these all over my backyard. They are so pretty, I wish they came in different colors. They resemble a butterfly to me.

Posted by: Pam - Stanchfield
on: 2010-05-05 02:58:34

Saw the first bloom on 5/3/10.

Posted by: mike - camden state park lynd mn
on: 2010-05-24 15:10:39

they are there in early spring! have to look close they are so small

Posted by: L schwartz - Zumbrota
on: 2011-05-04 19:11:28

05/04/2011 Many in bloom at the Zumbrota covered bridge park

Posted by: New Flower Spotterr - Hastings-Dakota County
on: 2011-05-04 21:46:32

CP Adams Park (in scientific and natural area on roadside)

Posted by: Laura - Redwood Falls, Ramsey Park
on: 2012-04-08 14:25:19

They are blooming in the lower camping grounds SE corner at the base of big trees

Posted by: Tess - Dayton
on: 2012-04-27 19:51:43

How hardy if these plants are move.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-04-28 09:31:15

Tess, if you transplant when they are dormant they should do fine in their new location, assuming it's a suitable habitat.

Posted by: Janelle - Glendalough State Park
on: 2012-05-04 09:31:48

Found these growing throughout Glendalough State Park (Battle Lake, Minnesota)in the woods April 30th-May 3rd 2012

Posted by: Lou - Moose Lake, MN
on: 2012-05-31 17:43:35

Beautiful to see in the early spring. A walk in the woods and a view of early flowering plants can make anyone happy

Posted by: Bonnie - Redwood Falls, Ramsey Park
on: 2013-05-12 08:29:16

Found by my great granddaughter. Sat May 11th. Really beautiful.

Posted by: Mark - Frontenac State Park
on: 2013-05-13 07:51:22

Abundant on South end of bluff trails in Frontenac State Park, 12 May 2013. Some blooms are done - maybe 1 week of display left. Blooms are much less luxuriant than in past years - perhaps due to the unusually cold April with multiple "restarts" of warm-up and melting, only to have it snow again. Flowers are small but exquisite, typically in rows of 5 or so on a single stem.

Posted by: Nick - Lutsen, Cook County
on: 2013-05-26 14:12:56

Many of these blooming on Oberg Mountain today. One of the few ground-covering plants that are.

Posted by: Pat - Minnetrista
on: 2014-02-03 12:10:18

I have, as well as do most Minnesotans, Dutchman's Breeches growing in our areas. The leaves are quite telling as well as the flower. My confusion is comparing the leaf of the Dutchman's Breeches with the leaf of the Dicentra canadensis (squirrel corn). They appear identical in your photos. Can you clarify this for me? Thank you.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-02-03 12:22:04

Pat, the foliage is pretty much identical between the two species; observe the flowers to distinguish one from the other. Having said that, squirrel corn is limited to the SE counties so where in the state you see these leaves will help with an ID, too.

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