Too big for my breeches

March 16 2024

For some people, the start of spring is marked by the vernal equinox, spring break from school, or even March madness basketball. But for me, it's not spring without the adorable blooms of Dutchman's Breeches flowers. Its finely-divided fern-like leaves grow about 12 inches long and appear in March. It reaches peak bloom in early April, with white and yellow flowers appearing on 6 inch stalks. The flowers really do look like tiny pants hanging out to dry! The foliage dies back in May, and the plant goes dormant until the next spring. The flowers are typically pollinated by bumblebees, and the seeds are dispersed by ants. Plants are often available from local native plant nurseries, so you can enjoy this deer-resistant plant in your own garden to mark the arrival of spring, just like I do.

Dutchman's Breeches

This spring ephemeral is found throughout the mid Atlantic and eastern United States, and it generally grows on slopes in our area. I have found it in several locations along the Potomac Heritage Trail, including River Bend Park and Seneca Regional Park, but nowhere have I seen as many as at the Turkey Run Loop trail at Turkey Run Park, off of George Washington Parkway just inside the Beltway and only 20 minutes from Good Wolf Gear. The related Squirrel Corn is another spring ephemeral that grows in similar areas and is often found together with Dutchman's Breeches at Turkey Run Park. It's small heart-shaped white flowers are reminiscent of fringed bleeding heart, which is also related. Other spring ephemerals in our area include the delicate Virginia Spring Beauty and the spectacular Virginia Bluebells. All of these plants appear before the trees leaf out so they can grow and complete blooming before the trees shade them out.

Squirrel Corn

Learn more about Dutchman's Breeches at iNaturalist.

Turkey Run Trail Map.