Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Plant of the Week: Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Yesterday I was in Hart County on an adventure to photograph one of the most photogenic waterfalls in Kentucky.  As we wandered below the sandstone cliffline getting every closer to the portion of the gorge where the waterfall occurs I noticed the leaves of Dutchman's breeches.  First just a few leaves coming out but as I looked further, there were large masses of leaves, fully open, dew covered, and with some warm weather, ready to burst out into flower.  This is one of springs early bloomers and it typically flowers in March to early April, so late January is a bit on the early side.  I love this beautiful, dainty member of the Fumitory family (relatives like squirrel corn and corydalis) not only for the unique pantaloon style flowers, but also for the fine textured leaves that seem to collect dew quite easily.  This species grows in rich, moist, organic woodlands and reaches heights of 4 - 8" tall. The leaves are triple compounded with 3 primary leaflets and 3 secondary leaflets on each primary leaflet.  The stems are often a brownish to reddish color.  Sitting atop the smooth leaves the flowering stalk supports 2 -8 upside down hanging flowers with two white outer petals and two yellow inner flowers.  The two outer petals fuse and form a nectar spur which provides the sweet elixir for long-tongued bees mostly bumblebees, Mason bees, Miner bees, Anthophorid bees and Giant Bee Fly. The seeds are covered with an oily substance and are therefore dispersed by ants.  The foliage is toxic to mammals.  This is a very easy to grow species in the garden as long as you have dappled shade and rich, organic soil. It can tolerate some clay soils but can't tolerate wet soils in the winter. Because the plants go dormant in late spring to early summer, you must interplant with later flowering species or woodland ferns unless you want a big brown dirt patch in the garden.

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