Dutchman's Breeches

Dicentra cucullaria Papaveraceae

Growth habit




Native distribution

Native to the Finger Lakes Region


A 3-5" tall ephemeral with white flowers and delicate foliage.
Light: shade to part sun
Moisture and Soil: moist, rich soil


Seed Treatment and Storage: warm/moist then cold/moist stratification

Biocultural value

Haudenosaunee runners made a compound infusion of the leaves and used it as a liniment to strengthen their limbs. It has even been reported that young men would chew the roots to attract women.

The statement above was sourced from:
Native American Ethnobotany Database: http://naeb.BRIT Native American Ethnobotany Database.org/

Wildlife value

Queen bumble bees pry open the complex flowers and feed on the nectar with long tongues, picking up and transferring pollen along the way. Dutchman's breeches can self pollinate if queen bumble bees are absent. Worker bees and cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.) bypass the flower opening and feed on nectar through perforations in the spurs. Dutchman's breeches seeds are ant-dispersed. Herbivores avoid the toxic foliage.

Climate change sensitivity

Over the period from 1986 to 2015, Dicentra cucullaria bloomed an average of 2.8 days later.



Poisonous description

Like its relative squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis), all parts of dutchman’s breeches are poisonous to cats, cattle, and humans because it synthesizes the neurotoxic alkaloid isoquinoline. The underground tubers have been found to cause convulsions in cattle.


Mundy Wildflower Garden, McDaniel Meadow, Woods, and Swamp, McLean Bogs, Eames Bog, Purvis Road Wetlands Natural Area

Special characteristics

This wildflower has tiny underground tubers that look like kernels of reddish corn. Insect pollinators often make holes in the base of its spurred flowers to "rob" nectar.