Dicentra canadensis (Squirrel Corn)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Fumariaceae (Fumitory)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, shade; rich hardwood forest, rock outcrops
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:6 to 12 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] A raceme of 4 to 8 hanging, greenish-white heart-shaped flowers, about ¾ inch long and ½ inch wide, on slender stalks at the end of a naked stem rising above the leaves. At the base are a pair of small yellowish lobes that open up like wings, revealing the short stamens and a 2-horned stigma. A pair of long, vertical ruffles are at right angles to the wings. The stem may be erect but is typically leaning or arching.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, 1 or 2 per flowering stem, triangular in outline, 5 to 9 inches long and 2½ to 5 inches wide, thrice divided into lacy, narrowly oblong to linear segments. Surfaces are smooth, the underside with a powdery, waxy bloom. Stems are smooth and green to brown.


An inhabitant of the eastern hardwood forest, Dicentra canadensis seems to prefer rich soils with rocky outcrops. The deep ravines and river valleys of Minnesota's southeast counties represent the extreme northwest extent of Squirrel Corn's North American range. It is by no means common in that area. According to the DNR, it is now most at risk from invasive species, earthworms in particular, and was listed as a Special Concern species in 1984. Gardeners will instantly recognize its family relationship to the larger pink bleeding-heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis) which is native to Asia. It is also very similar to the native Dicentra cucullaria or Dutchman's breeches, with which it often grows side-by-side. The foliage is nearly identical but Dutchman's Breeches blooms earlier and its flower is less heart-shaped, but like inflated pantaloons of Dutch tradition.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at Frontenac State Park, Goodhue County.


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

Posted by: Tom - New Ulm, Brown County
on: 2014-05-04 17:46:08

We live on the Minnesota river and have several large patches growing in our shady areas. Seems to be doing very well.

Posted by: Tom
on: 2014-05-04 18:16:51

Sorry, upon second look, not Squirrel Corn but Dutchman's Breeches.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-05-04 19:57:03

Easy mistake to make, Tom. Squirrel corn has distinctly round spurs and the whole flower looks much more heart-shaped than Dutchman's breeches, which has more pointed spurs.

Posted by: Britny - Edina
on: 2017-05-20 06:43:00

I have a few of these plants growing in my backyard. Is there anything particular I can do to encourage growth? Or possibly share with friends?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-05-20 07:07:40

Britny, unless you planted them, it's more likely you also have Dutchman's breeches in your yard rather than squirrel corn.

Posted by: Britny - Minneapolis
on: 2017-05-20 19:01:10

We are new to the home and are blessed to have stumbled upon a well developed yard. It's very likely the previous owner planted them as the tops are definitely heart shaped and not like those of Dutchman's breeches. I am enjoying learning several dozen other flowers that are new to me, including a collection of trillium.

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