Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
We’ve looked high and low for this unusual flower, and were ecstatic when we finally found a single specimen right where Russ Jolley (Wildflowers of the Columbia Gorge) said it would be, along the short trail to Starvation Creek Falls in early April, just a few steps from the parking lot.
Joan Barker, in Wildflowers of North America, writes of the Iroquois using the leaves to make a salve for sore muscles, and the Menomini’s belief that the flower was a love charm so powerful that it could “attract a woman even against her will.” The plant is found all over the Midwest and east coast of the U.S. and Canada, but only in the Northwest on the western half of the continent. It can be poisonous to cattle and cause a rash in humans. The name comes from the flower’s resemblance to a pair of pants (or pantaloons) hanging upside down. Photographs can’t really do justice to the flower’s unique three-dimensional shape.
Dutchman’s Breeches come from the same family as Bleeding Hearts and Corydallis.