A patch of Dutchman’s Breeches transplanted into our garden several years ago provided the inspiration for this watercolour.
Blooming at the same time as the bloodroot, one must hike into the woods early in the spring to see them. The sprays of tremulous, yellow-tipped white flowers resemble the wide-legged, traditional pantaloons worn by Dutchmen.
What a wondrous sight it is to find Dutchman’s Breeches dangling on “clotheslines” just above the forest floor! Don’t wait until the trilliums are out, because by then the pantaloons will have blown away!
Each unscented flower on the leafless stalks is about ¾” long. The flowers hover over the much-divided, feathery basal leaves. The foliage is toxic to mammals but is not often eaten by them.
The flowers’ nectar is held at the tip of the “pant legs,” and is accessible only to insects which have a long tongue, such as the bumblebee. Each flower can develop into an oblong seed capsule that tapers to a point on both ends. This seed capsule eventually splits into two segments to release the seeds. Ants carry the seeds to their nests where they eat the fleshy, oily appendages on the seeds before discarding them, propagating the plant.
The root system consists of a bulbous base with fleshy scales and secondary roots. The plant is native throughout eastern and mid-western North America, usually in open, moist woodlands.
Let me know if you find these dainty flowers some spring-my most favourite of all the woodland wonders . . . well, almost. It’s impossible to choose between the Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Dutchman’s Breeches!