Perhaps, in the olden days when the elfs made merry in the woodland dells, they were dressed in tiny, white, corduroy panties. Perhaps, one night during the springtime, they were caught in an April shower and their pretty white panties became soiled, and perhaps their mammas washed them, and hung them out to dry on a stem, and perhaps they grew fast to the stem - who knows? Surely the dainty and curiously constructed flowers of the Dutchman's Breeches would cause one to think so when he first saw them. The finely ribbed, white, yellow-tipped flowers consist of two upright, hollow, flattened and tapered spurs, widely separated at the tips, like a pair of horns, and joined toward the base, forming a baggy, heart-shaped pouch - for all the world like a miniature pair of inverted pantaloons, which were so becoming to the dear, good old ancestors of our own Pennsylvania Dutch. The two leg-like spurs are in reality petals, of which there are four. The other two are very small and narrow, and at right angles with the two longer ones and their hollowed tips are extended to form an arch over the slightly protruding, yellow stamens, of which there are six. The green style is very slender and is capped with a two-lobed stigma. The flowers are daintily suspended by a short stem, one after another, toward the tip of a slender and slightly curving, pale green stalk, which grows from five to ten inches high. The whitish, two-parted sepal is exceedingly small. The minutely crested flowers vary in number from one or two to seven, eight or nine. They are delicately textured, and of brief endurance. Frequently they are tinted with a delicate pink, and have a slight odour. The petals soon fall away and leave an oblong seed pod to mature. The rather large, thrice compound, delicate green leaves are divided again and again into sections of three, and present a well-grouped, thick and feathery appearance. They are a shade lighter in colour underneath, and are gracefully suspended from long, slender stems which rise from the root. The root is composed of a number of small tubers, closely clustered together and having the appearance of a scaly bulb. Sometimes these clusters may be found partially exposed, where they have been washed out of the banks by heavy rains, and then they have a decidedly red colour. The plant is perennial, and occurs commonly from Nova Scotia to Lake Huron. Minnesota and Washington, and southward to North Carolina, Nebraska, and Missouri. Look for the Dutchman's Breeches early in April and May along rocky hillsides, in rich, open woods, where they may be found in scattered groups, covering a considerable area. The Latin name, Dicentra, means double spur. The beautiful Bleeding Heart, D. eximia, cultivated in our gardens, is a member of this decorative family, and is a native of Japan, from whence it has been introduced. Squirrel Corn, D. canadensis, is a similar species, having its greenish white petals stained with purple instead of yellow, and is slightly fragrant. It is named from the appearance of its granular roots, which are also said to be relished by the squirrels. The spurs are short and rounded, and the crested inner petals project conspicuously. The leaves are decidedly whitish on the under side. This species comes into blossom about a month later than the preceding, or during May and June, and is inclined to rich woods in the cooler portions of its range. The tubers are said to be used as a tonic and as a remedy for skin diseases.
DUTCHMAN's BREECHES. Dicentra Cucullaria.