by Jane Scully
This delicate hallmark of rich spring woods is a delight in every way. Its distinctive white flowers are clustered along a leafless stalk, like pairs of pantaloons hung on the line to dry. Its grayish-green, feathery basal leaves add texture and background to this gentle, nodding forest delight. At 4 to 12 inches in height, Dutchman's Breeches grow in clusters and can produce multiple racemes of flowers.
The flower's inflated spurs form a V to make a unique shape that gave it its generic name-Dicentra-from the Greek meaning "two-spurred." Early bumblebees, whose proboscis is long enough to tap the nectar, pollinate the flowers. Honeybees, with a shorter proboscis, can gather only the pollen with their front feet.
Dutchman's Breeches is in the large Poppy family. The family includes wild bleeding heart that is increasingly cultivated for home gardens, and bloodroot.