Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches) is a perennial herbaceous plant, native to rich woods of eastern North America, with a disjunct population in the Columbia River Basin. The common name Dutchman's breeches derives from their white flowers that look like white breeches.
Height is 15-40 cm. Root is a cluster of small pink to white teardrop-shaped bulblets. Leaves are 10-36 cm long and 4-18 cm broad, with a petiole up to 15 cm long; they are trifoliate, with finely divided leaflets. Flowers are white, 1-2 cm long, and are born in spring on flower stalks 12-25 cm long.
Dutchman's breeches is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory. The seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris.
The western populations have sometimes been separated as Dicentra occidentalis on the basis of often somewhat coarser growth, but do not differ from many eastern plants in the Appalachians.
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