4 April 2017 – Tiny Pants on Tiny Plants

Dutchman’s Breeches – Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh. is favorite of those who are familiar with spring ephemeral wildflowers because if one uses their imagination, little man in pants hanging upside down can be envisioned when looking at the flowers. No wonder the forest is the setting for many a fairy tale.



Dutchman’s Breeches are found in Eastern North America and believe it or not, in isolated naturally occurring populations in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. They grow best in bottomland forests and adjacent areas. On the Refuge, they are common along both the Patuxent River and the Little Patuxent River.



The plant is similar to Squirrel Corn – Dicentra canadensis (L.) Bernh. The flower spurs on Dutchman’s Breeches are more pointed that the ones on Squirrel Corn. The leaves on Squirrel Corn are generally more finely dissected. In both species, the “down” end of the flowers contain the reproductive parts.

Native Americans used the plant for medicinal purposes.



  1. “Dicentra cucullaria”. Flora of North America (FNA). Missouri Botanical Garden – via eFloras.org. Accessed 8 April 2017
  2.  “Dicentra cucullaria”. NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Accessed 8 April 2017.
  3. Weakley, A.S.2015. Flora of the Southern and Mid–Atlantic States. Working draft of 21 May 2015. Univ. of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU), Chapel Hill. <http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm>
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