By Suzanne Wodek
Dutchman’s breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, is a delightful native spring ephemeral. The flowers resemble the wide-legged, traditional pantaloons worn by Dutch men; thus, the common name. It flowers early in the spring when sunlight hits the woodland floor before the canopy of the trees fills in. By early summer the green fern- like foliage will fade to a light yellow and eventually go into total dormancy by mid- summer.
Expect the plant to grow about 4 to 8 inches tall, with flowers about 3/4” long. An acidic soil is best and good soil drainage is essential for plant survival. This species naturally occurs on forest floors, in rocky woods, on slopes, ledges, valleys and ravines, and along streams. If you have any of these conditions on your property this would make a perfect addition to your garden.
The nectar of the flowers attracts long- tongued bees primarily, including honeybees, bumblebees and mason bees. Less common visitors include various butterflies and skippers. Because the seeds have elaisomes (fleshy or oily appendages), they are distributed by ants. Ants carry the seeds to their nests, eat the elaisomes and discard the seeds some distance from the mother plant. The good news is that the foliage is toxic to mammalian herbivores, including deer and rabbits, and is not often eaten by them. It causes minor skin irritation for humans when touched, but it lasts for a few minutes only.
Upcoming Events at the Botanical Garden
Annual Spring Plant Sale
Friday, May 3, noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 4, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Botanical Gardens (BGA) and numerous local plant vendors will offer a wide variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. BGA members will get a 10 percent discount on BGA-grown plants that we sell at the gazebo. As always, this event will take place rain or shine. Free admission and parking on-site or nearby.
Enjoying Wildlife in Your Garden
Sunday, May 19, 2 to 4p.m.
Steve and Kit Schmeiser, founding members of Mountain WILD!, will explain how to provide key elements in your yard and garden that are friendly and attractive to wildlife. They will discuss the advantages of incorporating native plants and natural landscapes. Applications will be provided for certifying your property, church, school or workplace as a Wildlife Friendly Habitat with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation.
Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes: 828-252-5190. Cost for the workshop is $15 for members and $20 for non-members.
The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Learn more at AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org.