( Originally Published 1922 )
Dutchman's Breeches; White Hearts; Soldier's Cap; Ear-drops
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.
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.
Flowers—Irregular, greenish white tinged with rose, slightly fragrant, heart-shaped, with 2 short rounded spurs, more than 1/2 in. long, nodding on a slender scape.
Calyx of 2 scale-like sepals; corolla heart-shaped at base, consisting of 4 petals in 2 united pairs, a prominent crest on tips of inner ones; 6 stamens in 2 sets; style with 2-lobed stigma. Scape: Smooth, 6 to 12 in. high, the rootstock bearing many small, round, yellow tubers like kernels of corn. Leaves: All from root, delicate, compounded of 3 very finely dissected divisions.
Preferred Habitat—Rich, moist woods.
Distribution—Nova Scotia to Virginia, and westward to the Mississippi.
Any one familiar with the Bleeding-heart (Dicentra eximia) of old-fashioned gardens, found growing wild in the Alleghanies, and with the exquisite White Mountain Fringe (Adlumia fungosa) often brought from the woods to be planted over shady trellises, or with the Dutchman's breeches, need not be told that the little squirrel corn is next of kin or far removed from the Pink Corydalis. It is not until we dig up the plant and look at its roots that we see why it received its name. A delicious perfume like hyacinths, only fainter and subtler, rises from the dainty blossoms.