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Dutchman Breeches is a perennial plant which likes rich woods for growth. They are native to eastern North America but have a separate population in the Columbia Basin. The little blossoms are from 1/2 to 3/4 inches long and grow in the early spring. There are anywhere from 3 to 14 of the blooms on a stalk that ranges from 4 3/4 to 9 3/4 inches in length. Ants spread the seeds of the plant by a process called myrmecochory. The kidney-shaped seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome, which is what attracts the ants to the plant. They carry the seed back to their nest and eat the elaiosome, and the rest of the seed deposits in the nest debris, from where they germinate. Due to this process, they are now growing in a medium that is rich in the ant nest debris. The foliage of the Dutchman’s Breeches is a deep grayish-green basal that is rosette-shaped. The stems that the flowers grow on grows out of this rosette and has been equated to a clothesline when they are blooming the flowers hang in a row. Dutchmans Breeches can grow in planting zones 3-7. They like partial to full shade with moist soil and need a very well-drained ground. The acidic land is the best planting medium for these plants, with hummus to provide the necessary nutrients, and they will bloom March through May.
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In exchange, it tolerates a fair amount of shade and frigid temperatures. It withstands winters down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. This flower also enjoys fertile soils in the middle of the pH range. Once established, Dutchman’s Breeches bears up to six three-quarters inch-long flowers on each stalk over a period of two to three weeks. Afterward, the stems die back, and the leaves turn to yellow. Through May, the entire plant fades back into the ground to make way for later blooming plants.
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