Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

White arrowhead shaped flowers.

NPS/Gordon Dietzman


Dutchman’s breeches have white blossoms that resemble upside down breeches. To further that imaginative interpretation, each of between two and six paired blossoms hang from a dropping raceme, which looks much like clothes on a clothesline. The plant itself is less than a foot tall, including flower stems. Leaves are three-lobed and are deeply and finely cut producing a delicate, frilly appearance. Dutchman’s breeches are most often found in dappled sunlight and flower in early spring and prefer loamy and fertile woodland soils.

The seeds have an eliaosome, a fleshy protuberance, that act as a lure for ants. Ants carry the seeds to their nest or some other location, chew off and eat the eliaosome. The seed is then discarded to germinate.

After the fruits set, the underground bulb goes into dormancy until fall. In autumn, the bulbs produce sugar from stored starches and produce underground flower and leaf buds are produced. These buds then become dormant until spring. When the ground warms in the spring, the plant once again becomes active and quickly shoots up leaves and flower stalks to take advantage of the sunlight streaming through the still bare branches of s spring woodland.

Blooms: April and May

Fascinating Facts

  • Because of the flower’s unusual shape, the best pollinators are long-tongued bees, such as bumblebees and several of our native bees. Butterflies are not effective pollinators of Dutchman's Breeches.
  • Dutchman's breeches are only found in woodlands that have a history of not being disturbed by grazing or plowing.

Find It

Crosby Farm Regional Park
Hidden Falls Regional Park
East Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park

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Last updated: March 7, 2018

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