The Unique Squirrel Corn

Squirrel Corn

The Appearance of Squirrel Corn

Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis) is a beautiful herbaceous perennial plant that grows along the ground of most hardwood forests in the eastern US. The leaves are dark green and white to pale pink heart-shaped flowers bloom on low stems in the early spring, usually beginning in April and lasting through May.

Dicentra canadensis grows at a leisurely pace, allowing it to be used for edging and ground cover in landscaping because it will not quickly take over and strangle other plants. It is best planted with ferns and other ground plants to ensure that it does not receive too much sunlight.

Caring for Squirrel Corn

In the garden, Dicentra canadensis generally grow about six inches high; though wild, they may be up to 12 inches. They are simple plants that start in a cold frame, and the seedlings can then be transplanted in the spring. Care should be taken, however, to wear gloves while working with these plants. The leaves are known skin irritants. The majority of the plant is toxic, which is actually beneficial as there are no animals that will chew on and destroy it.

Squirrel Corn, Dicentra canadensis | Leaves for Wildlife

Dicentra canadensis are named for the root system of the plant that resembles an ear of corn. This root has been historically used as a medicinal tonic to treat the symptoms of such ravaging diseases as tuberculosis (TB) and syphilis.

The Similar Characteristics of Squirrel Corn's Cousin

Dicentra canadensis plants are a close cousin of D. cucullaria. However, the flowers of the two plants tell them apart. Where the flower of the Squirrel plant is heart-shaped, those Dutchman's Breeches resemble those old-time riding trousers. These plants commonly grow in the same regions and can often be found next to each other in the same beds. Squirrel Corn and Dutchman's Breeches are the more uncommon plants.

How the Plant Received Its Name

Dutchman's breeches were given that name because of the unusual shape of their flowers, which look like a somewhat windblown pair of white cotton breeches. They dangle beneath arched stems above mounds of beautiful fringed leaves. Like the May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum), it's a perennial and appears in the spring. Also, like the May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum), it's native to woodlands in eastern North America. A person will know that spring is finally here if he or she sees these two perennial plants blossoming. By the way, both the May Apple and Dutchman's breeches have been used medicinally, and they're toxic to ingest by someone who doesn't know how to prepare them the right way.

The Myrmecochory of this Pant

Spring Ephemerals: Masters of Adaptation - Conserving Carolina

One interesting thing about Dutchman's breeches is that in the wild, they use ants to spread their seeds. This is called myrmecochory. The ants are attracted to a membrane around the seeds. They take the seed to the colony, eat the membrane, and take the seed to an ant landfill of sorts, where it's left to germinate. In the garden, Dutchman's breeches like the moist, well-drained loam and dappled shade of its native woods.

Dutchmas Breeches

Dutchmas Breeches

Dutchman’s Breeches, also known as Dicentra cucullaira, is a perennial wildflower that is native to the Eastern portion of the United States; though more rarely, the plant can also be found in the wooded areas of the Pacific Northwest. It blooms in the spring from March to April and goes dormant by mid-summer. The delicate looking flowers on this plant range in color from white to a very light pink and are light yellow at the tip. Dutchman's Breeches Flowers The flowers on them resemble a pair of pants that are hanging upside down, with the ankle on top. The small flowers, about ¾ in., appear in rows on leafless stems that protrude up through the foliage. The leaves on them are roughly 4 inches long and resemble those on a fern, are deeply cut, and are greyish-green in color. These plants are smaller in size at just one foot tall and one foot wide. They thrive best with an average amount of moisture, in well-drained and humus soil, and in part to fully shaded areas. Pollinators Love This Perennial Typically, they are pollinated by bumblebees who have the ability, with their long proboscis, to tap the nectar. Honeybees can also pollinate them but not as easily because they only have the ability to collect the pollen with their front feet. Try This Plant Today Shop Garden Plants Nursery Dutchman’s Breeches are best left in nature. However, if they are found in a garden because they go dormant by summer, they aren’t typically used as a border. If these plants are being used in a garden, they should be planted in the October or very early spring. It should be noted, that they grow from underground tubers, therefore, if they are planted in the right conditions they spread rapidly. They can be tamed by digging up and either removing or replanting the tubers.

Regular price $7.99
Regular price Sale price $7.99
Unit price  per 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.