Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Dutchman's Breeches - Dicentra cucullaria   (L.) Bernhardi
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Section 6 » Order Papaverales » Family Fumariaceae
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Author(L.) Bernhardi
DistributionThroughout the mountains, and scattered over most of the Piedmont; barely into the edge of the western Coastal Plain (along the Roanoke and Cape Fear rivers).

This is a Northern and Midwestern species, occurring from eastern Canada south to central NC, central AL, and OK.
AbundanceFairly common to locally common in the most of the mountains. Also uncommon to very locally fairly common in the eastern and central Piedmont, but rare in the southwestern portions of the province. Occurs locally along the Roanoke River in the extreme upper Coastal Plain of Northampton and Halifax counties and along the Cape Fear River south into Cumberland County.
HabitatThis is a species of moist, high pH soils, found mainly in Rich Cove Forests in the mountains, and Basic Mesic Forests downstate. It also grows in Northern Hardwoods and in Boulderfield Forests, and it also grows in some very rich floodplains such as on natural levees and in some bottomlands.
See also Habitat Account for Rich Wet-Mesic Hardwood Forests
PhenologyBlooms in March and April, and fruits in April and May. It blooms about two weeks earlier than does the very similar Squirrel Corn (D. canadensis) at the same location.
IdentificationThis species and Squirrel Corn have identical growth forms, with only the flowers differing. They each grow to about 8-12 inches tall. They have several basal leaves, each compound (triangular in overall shape), but finely divided into numerous narrow segments and entire margins. The separate flowering stalk, one per plant, is about 6-10 inches tall, about the same height as the tops of the leaves. The handful of flowers are in a raceme, with each flower being white and hanging downward. The flower is about 3/4-inch long, and the two spurs are quite long and pointed (though rounded at the tip), spreading outward and looking like a pair of white pants hanging upside down. In fact, the raceme reminds one of a set of small white pants on a curved clothes line! Squirrel Corn has the flowers in a narrow heart shape, with two rounded lobes at the top, and two flaring corolla lobes at the bottom. Both species are a favorite spring wildflower, especially owing to the unusual flowers, plus their ability to occur in very large stands. Dutchman's Breeches has orange-red corms, whereas Squirrel Corn is named for its yellow corms; these can be found just below the soil surface in the summer, if you don't mind digging around in a rich cove forest.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS4 [S4S5]
Global RankG5
State StatusW6
US Status
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Scott PohlmanAverasboro State Historic Site; Cumberland Co.; 19 March 2020 CumberlandPhoto_natural
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