It may have all started with that first bloodroot flower on a day when the March sun turned seventy and the wind was southerly. It may have started with snow trilliums on a limestone hill that hadn't seen a beam of direct sunlight since last summer. It may have started in a city park with spring beauties which would bloom and be done long before the mowers clipped them off. But it could not be officially spring until the dutchman's breeches bloomed.
Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh.
Early spring Woods.
They start up exceedingly early - little curled-over, naked, pinkish stems bent as if to protect the tiny unformed leaves. They grow, stretch, take on greenness, and in an incredibly short time, as one reckons the progress of growth in the year, there are lacy clumps of grey-green leaves among the old brown oak leaves on the forest floor, and each clump in a few days has tall stalks, of crisp, puffy, white flowers. The shape of the dutchman's breeches flowers is their greatest charm, though their faint perfume is delightful and the leaves are truly beautiful. The flowers are as if made in a mold, two halves neatly put together with flaring bottom and wide-spread top, hung tenuously on the thinnest of hair-fine stems which attach them, each at a different slant to the main stem.
Stems and leaves rise separately from the clusters of pink corm-roots not far beneath the surface of the ground. There is really not much root to account for all those leaves and flowers, just a clump of coral-pink corms no bigger than a hickory nut held fast by a few short white roots. But in those corms there is enough strength to live through the winter, and as early as the ground permits, to send up stems, foliage, and flowers.