As the snow melts and we start poking around in the woods and our gardens we will see the dutchman's breeches starting to emerge from under last years fallen leaves. This plant even though it looks dainty will push up and grow through individual leaves. Dutchman's breeches leaves are very finely cut, bright green and very attractive. The plant is a member of the Fumariaceae family which includes bleeding hearts.
They are relatively few plants as lovely as dutchman's breeches. They flower in the early spring usually starting in mid to late April here in western New York. The flowers look like upside down pants with yellow spurs at the base of the flower. The flowers attract native bees, butterflies and skippers. The foliage is toxic to mammals and is not eaten by deer. The plant goes dormant usually by the end of May so planting it with companions that will complement it is a good idea. Ferns, foam flower, blue cohosh, sessile bellwort or perfoliate bellwort, are all great companions.
The roots at the base of the plants are made up of many bulblets or cormels that sit just under the soil. These can be separated to make new plants. The plant can also be grown from seed and does self sow. If you want to catch the seed you will need to watch the seed pod, because the seeds have elaisomes which are fleshy appendages that are very attractive to ants. The ants take the seed for the sweet elaisomes. You need to get it before they do. Plant the seeds immediately before they dry out.
Dutchman's breeches prefer moist soil with lots of organic matter. Dappled shade is best but of course when they first start to emerge in the spring there are few leaves on the trees. Dutchman's breeches are a early spring treasure.
Dicentra cucullaria - Dutchman's breeches
-Dutchman's breeches is a dainty, white. early spring flower
-Seeds are ant dispersed
-Foliage is toxic to deer and is not eaten by them
-Nectar attracts pollinators -Height: 3 to 8 inches tall
-Zone: 3 to 8