Two woodland dicentras

Dutchman's breechesWhile walking through the woods on a spring day, you may be fortunate enough to see the above plant.  Or this plant . . .

Squirrel cornWait a minute!  Aren’t those the same species of plant?

Let’s look at the leaves.  Here are the leaves of the first plant. . .

Dutchman's breechesAnd here are the leaves of the second plant. . .

Squirrel cornThey certainly look similar — with highly dissected compound leaves.

So let’s look more closely at the inflorescence.  The first plant. . .

Dutchman's breechesThe second plant. . .

Squirrel cornHhmmm.  Both have white flowers.  But something is a bit different between the two of them.

Okay, let’s put each plant’s flower side-by-side.  How would you describe the difference?

Dutchman's breeches and Squirrel cornFor the plant on the left, the flower’s spurs rise upward, spread apart a bit, and extend above the point of connection to the flower stalk.  For the plant on the right, the flower’s spurs are shorter, rounded, and barely above the connection point to the flower stalk.

The left-most flower is from a Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) while the right-most flower is from a Squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis).

You might find these plants when their flowers are dying or when they’ve already developed seed capsules.

Dutchman's breeches and Squirrel corn

Dutchman’s breeches and Squirrel corn

Or you might find only the foliage.  The next comparison image shows leaves which look a bit different.  It seems like the Dutchman’s breeches leaves are somewhat wider within their dissected lobes — at least with these specimens.  This may be misleading since illustrations (and comments) in field guides show (and state) the leaves are mostly the same.

Dutchman's breeches and Squirrel corn

Dutchman’s breeches and Squirrel corn

The best way to distinguish between these two Dicentras is to find them in bloom.


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3 Responses to Two woodland dicentras

  1. Josh Fecteau says:

    Excellent comparison — thank you!

  2. Deej says:

    Is squirrel corn the same thing as a bleeding heart?

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