Dutchman’s Breeches

By the time I was ready to hit the road, I knew I would be too late to meet up with my friends from the Audubon Photo Club out at Allegany State Park. By the looks of things, they had a great time and I can’t wait to see their pictures!

Still, the light was so lovely, I knew I had to find some photo op! So I headed to Long Point State Park – a shorter drive, to see if the Dutchman’s Breeches were in bloom. I was not disappointed, though I would have been if I had waited another few days.  Some of the blooms were starting to turn brown!  I got there just in the nick of time.

Dutchman's Breeches Closeup

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) are supposed to look like… well… Dutchman’s breeches, all hung out on the line to dry.

Dutchman's Breeches PlantListings of medicinal uses in all the sources I checked end with a warning that the plant may be toxic and/or cause a skin rash…

With that in mind, my favorite folklore use is Love Charm.  Oh yes…  If you are willing to take a chance on being poisoned or covered with a rash, you might chew on the root of this plant, then approach your intended.  It is said that the fragrance of your breath will win her over, even if she was not interested in you!

I think the leaves are particularly pretty, so delicate.  I have found lots of them in the other woods where I walk more regularly, but no blooms.  It makes me wonder if they, like other spring flowers of the deciduous woods, take years to produce a bloom?  I’ll have to check “my” woods again soon.

 The range for this flower is rather interesting, concentrated mostly in the east, but with a few western populations.  Sometimes I show you the USDA range map for a species.  But there is another site that has more specific ranges.  The USDA colors the entire state or province if a species is found anywhere within.  In contract, www.efloras.org shows where the species is found.  Compare:

USDA Dutchman's Breeches Range Map  eFloras Dutchman's Breeches Range Map
USDA on left, eFloras on right (click map to go to site)

Dutchman’s Breeches rely on Bumblebees (or other long-tongued insects) for pollination.  I’d like to catch that action sometime!  They are true Spring Ephemerals, for they will die back after setting fruit before the canopy closes over.

One more picture:

Dutchman's Breeches