Dutchman’s Breeches; White Hearts; Soldier’s Cap; Ear-drops – Flowers

(Bicuculla Cucullaria) Poppy family

(Dicentra cucullaria of Gray)

Flowers—White, tipped with yellow, nodding in a 1-sided raceme. Two scale-like sepals ; corolla of 4 petals, in 2 pairs, somewhat cohering into a heart-shaped, flattened, irregular flower, the outer pair of petals extended into 2 widely spread spurs, the small inner petals united above; 6 stamens in 2 sets; style slender, with a 2-lobed stigma. Scape : 5 to 10 in. high, smooth, from a bulbous root. Leaves: Finely cut, thrice compound, pale beneath, on slender petioles, all from base.

Preferred Habitat—Rich, rocky woods.

Flowering Season—April—May.

Distribution—Nova Scotia to the Carolinas, west to Nebraska.

Rich leaf mould, accumulated between crevices of rock, makes the ideal home of this delicate, yet striking, flower, coarse-named, but refined in all its parts. Consistent with the dainty, heart-shaped blossoms that hang trembling along the slender stem like pendants from a lady’s ear, are the finely dissected, lace-like leaves, the whole plant repudiating by its femininity its most popular name. It was Thoreau who observed that only those plants which require but little light, and can stand the drip of trees, prefer to dwell in the woods—plants which have commonly more beauty in their leaves than in their pale and almost colorless blossoms. Certainly few woodland dwellers have more delicately beautiful foliage than the fumitory tribe.

Owing to this flower’s early season of bloom and to the depth of its spurs, in which nectar is secreted by two long processes of the middle stamens, only the long-tongued female bumblebees then flying are implied by its curious formation. Two canals leading to the sweets invite the visitor to thrust in her tongue, and as she hangs from the white heart and presses forward to drain the luscious drops, first on one side, then on the other, her hairy underside necessarily comes in contact with the pollen of younger flowers and with the later maturing stigmas of older ones, to which she carries it later. But, as might be expected, this intelligent bee occasionally nips holes through the spurs of the flower that makes dining so difficult for her—holes that lesser fry are not slow to investigate.

According to the Rev. Alexander S. Wilson, bumblebees make holes with jagged edges ; wasps make clean-cut, circular openings ; and the carpenter bees cut slits, through which they steal nectar from deep flowers. Who has tested this statement about the guilty little pilferers on our side of the Atlantic ?