DUTCHMAN'S BREECHES WHITE HEARTS SOLDIER'S CAP EARDROPS
(Bicuculla Cucullaria; Dicentra cucullaria of Gray) Poppy
Flowers - White, tipped with yellow, nodding in a 1-sided raceme.
Two scale-like sepals; corolla of 4 petals, in 2 pairs, somewhat
cohering into a heart-shaped, flattened, irregular flower, the
outer pair of petals extended into
2 widely spread spurs, the
small inner petals united above; 6 stamens in 2 sets; style
slender, with a 2-lobed stigma. Scape: 5 to 10 in. high, smooth,
from a bulbous root. Leaves: Finely cut, thrice compound, pale
beneath, on slender petioles, all from base
Preferred Habitat - Rich, rocky woods.
Flowering Season- - April-May.
Distribution - Nova Scotia to the Carolinas, west to Nebraska.
Rich leaf mould, accumulated between crevices of rock, makes the
ideal home of this delicate, yet striking, flower, coarse-named,
but refined in all its parts. Consistent with the dainty,
heart-shaped blossoms that hang trembling along the slender stem
like pendants from a lady's ear, are the finely dissected,
lace-like leaves, the whole plant repudiating by its femininity
its most popular name. It was Thoreau who observed that only
those plants which require but little light, and can stand the
drip of trees, prefer to dwell in the woods - plants which have
commonly more beauty in their leaves than in their pale and
almost colorless blossoms. Certainly few woodland dwellers have
more delicately beautiful foliage than the fumitory tribe.
Owing to this flower's early season of bloom and to the depth of
its spurs, in which nectar is secreted by two long processes of
the middle stamens, only the long-tongued female bumblebees then
flying are implied by its curious formation. Two canals leading
to the sweets invite the visitor to thrust in her tongue, and as
she hangs from the white heart and presses forward to drain the
luscious drops, first on one side, then on the other, her hairy
underside necessarily comes in contact with the pollen of younger
flowers and - with the later maturing stigmas of older ones, to
which she carries it later. But, as might be expected, this
intelligent bee occasionally nips holes through the spurs of the
flower that makes dining so difficult for her - holes that lesser
fry are not slow to investigate.
According to the Rev. Alexander S. Wilson, bumblebees make holes
with jagged edges; wasps make clean-cut, circular openings; and
the carpenter bees cut slits, through which they steal nectar
from deep flowers. Who has tested this statement about the guilty
little pilferers on our side of the Atlantic?
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