Monday, April 13, 2009

DUTCHMAN'S BREECHES

How can any wildflower enthusiast not like Dutchman’s breeches? If you can’t admire their dainty beauty, you at least ought to be amused by their peculiar pantaloon shape—like so much elfin underwear hung upside-down on a washline. There are wooded roadside banks near here, whose soil is rich with humus, that are now covered with their tiny white blooms. I passed them this morning on the way back from the library. Oddly, though, and for no reason I can imagine, the steep bank just up the dead-end road from the cottage—usually a riot of Dutchman’s breeches in April—is all but barren. What happened to last spring’s sizeable colonies? When I ambled up there a few minutes ago to take a photo, I counted fewer than a dozen plants where normally I would expect to find hundreds. Are they simply late? Dutchman’s breeches are one of the earlier spring ephemerals, in my corner of southwestern-Ohio typically arriving about the same time as bloodroot and trout lily. Their bulbs are easy to transplant, and if you have the right setting, can be easily added to the woodland garden. I scooped a few last spring from the shoulder of a road being widened. Various nature centers and the like, who often hold springtime “wild plant” sales, usually have Dutchman’s breeches among their offerings. For me, the springtime appearance of Dutchman’s breeches marks a trusted phenology checkpoint. Whenever I see the tiny white blooms spackling the woodsy hillsides, I know that it’s time to begin checking my favorite secret haunts for tasty morel mushrooms. I do, indeed, like Dutchman’s breeches. They’re lovely as wildflowers, naughtily cute, and a signal sure to stir my wild forager’s heart.

32 comments:

Jain said...

Oh, I'm glad your flowers are finally blooming! You had me worried there for a bit!

Lynne said...

Elfin underwear!! LOL!
I think you should petition the North American Wildflower Namer's Guild to change the name to Elfin Underwear.

;)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

Hey, I was getting worried, too! I have no idea why things are seemingly late here—but these Dutchman's breeches weren't blooming last Thursday when I first looked…only either over the weekend or even today. Strange.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

Yeah, sure…and some old ladies would form a committee, have me censured, purged from the membership rolls, excommunicated, drawn and quartered…and, well, put on some web site for "unmentionable indiscretions against a native plant." I'd be on CNN, and offered a "reality show" on Fox. Some smutty publisher would probably offer me a lot of money to write books such as Euell Gibbons knockoffs as "How to Fondle a Fern," "Loose Nights with Loosestrife" or "Show Me Your Buttercups".

Nope. Not going there, thank you. I, for one, refuse to ridicule perfectly innocent wildflowers…even if they do look like pixie knickers.

gleaner said...

Another fan here of the delicate Dutchman's breeches!

Jayne said...

Hi Jim,

You have a very lovely blog and I love your style of writing. Thanks for stopping by my Journey Through Grace. I've also added Riverdaze to my daily reading list. Blessings!

Jayne

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gleaner…

They can always use another fan.

My comments (in jest) to Lynne have probably set them back image-wise. I may even hear from their battery of lawyers…providing wildflowers have attorneys.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

You have some wonderful bird photos on your site—and I really enjoyed your postings. I'm glad you visited here, glad you liked what you saw and read.

Thank you for adding Riverdaze to your list. You are indeed welcome here any time.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

What a wonderful plant! It really is whimsical - elfin underwear is perfect!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

I hadn't thought of Dutchman's breeches as "whimsical" but you know, they are!

The Solitary Walker said...

Good grief - first water nymphs' tresses now wood nymphs' knickers! Whatever next?

Rowan said...

I have these plants in my garden and love them but have never thought of them as a wildflower - how wonderul it must be to see them growing by the side of the road.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Hey! Lynne started it…sorta. She set me off, anyway—not that it takes all that much. One thought led to another, each more outrageous than the one before, and there I was…running my mouth (vicariously via a keyboard) and digging myself in deeper and deeper. I'll poke fun at ANYTHING!

Once, while taking my daughter and her boyfriend back to college, we spent 200 miles coming up with names of dwarfs that Disney left out—after all, it goes to figure, there wouldn't be just Seven Dwarfs. Nahhh…had to be plenty more dwarfs than ol' Sneezy, Happy, and Doc.

As the miles passed, the names got worse and worse (or better and better, depending on viewpoint) and we laughed harder and harder until finally I couldn't see to drive. At which point we got caught by a traffic jam on the freeway, slowed, and a guy in a pickup truck, apparently paying even less attention than we were, rear ended my pickup—which kinda took the steam out of our fun.

So who knows what I'll inappropriately make fun of next…squirrels, tree frogs, juniper bushes? The list is endless…and I'm an equal opportunity wisecracker.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

What you might have instead of Dutchman's Breeches (Diecentra cucullaria) might instead be Bleeding Hearts (D. eximia) or Squirrel Corn (D. canadensis) as they all look closely alike—especially in their white white-flowered forms. I don't know how widespread true Dutchman's Breeches are, but I know Bleeding Heart is popular with gardeners worldwide, more so the pinkish ones, I'd think, rather than the white, though.

Whatever they are, look-alike kin or not, these tiny, early-spring bloomers (No, I'm not using that as a double entendre, Solitary!) they're really pretty, and one of my very favorites.

Gail said...

Great photo grizz. I never saw those flowers and the name? Hysterical and true although I never actually saw a Dutchman's Breeches". :-) Once again, I am enlightened by your view of nature. Thanks.

Love Gail
peace.....

Carolyn H said...

My dutchman's breeches aren't out yet--budded though. The bloodroot is still some days away. The first trout lily is blooming, though! It's a start.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

There was actually a pretty heated brouhaha in Victorian days over what was considered their salacious name. One nature writer adamantly called it "crude, lewd, and rude."

(I'm trying my best to abstain from making further underwear wisecracks re. this wildflower…but it is difficult.)

The plants are fairly common and widespread; look in rich, rather open woodlands. The white blooms are small but perky.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

I haven't see a trout lily around here—though there aren't many in the immediate area and I might have missed them. But I found a few bloodroot this morning. It's still strangely early here; not any colder, really, than usual. I'm wondering if it might be due to the dry winter.

Rowan said...

Scribe I have both the red and white Dicentra spectabilis( or Lady in the Bath -another name for your collection!) but the one I was thinking was yours is the smaller dicentra eximia alba - they are very like your wild one, much smaller and less dramatic than spectabilis and just starting to flower now.

Gail said...

Oh, those victorian uptight proper whatever.. :-) I love the name,. Love it!!
And I will look in the deper areas of our surounding woods for these lovely breeches. thanks for the map

and "brouhaha" is a great word. I think I will incorporate it in to my day, often.

Love Gail
peace

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

The Dicentra genus has only a handful of species—a couple of dozen, depending on the reference text you use—and most of them that I know anything about look rather similar except for color. Bleeding hearts are typically deep to lightly pink, although I think there's a white version; the true Dutchman's breeches really look the most like actual miniature breeches than any of the others. I bet you'd like these a lot.

Lynne said...

Brouhahahahahaha!

I can't stop snickering over these comments about names for underpants!

We call them grundies at our house.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

You gotta wonder how those Victorians managed to come up with their next generation. Maybe all that "uptightness" is what set poor old Jack-the-Ripper off…

Brouhaha…according to my OED (the dictionary to end all dictionaries…and guaranteed to cast you into bankruptcy should you decide to purchase a set, plus give you a side order of a hernia seeing as how you hocked your car to buy the books, and now must attempt to carry your ridiculously overpriced home) the word is French and late-19th Century in origin. (Hmmm…possibly prompted by a Frenchman meeting a Victorian English lady? Is there a pattern here?)

Anyway, hie thee to yonder woods, search for the dancing knickers of the Dutchman's breeches. If you find them, you'll be able to wow your friends by confessing you have indeed now personally witnessed a Dutchman's breeches! Then enjoy a brouhaha with whomever you're feeling piqued with at the moment.

I do believe you can make a day of it!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

Grundies!? Huh! Boy I know I could get myself in trouble riffing on that!

I once wrote a little piece on April Fools Day about how the best use for a knot-headed, chronically disobedient dog might be to simply eat the canine miscreant…and I included recipe suggestions: "Rack of Lab," "Schnauzer Kabobs," "Redbones and Wild Rice," "Poodle Croquettes," and for the kids, "Beagles-N-Beans," plus about a dozen others. The editor and I thought it was pretty funny. The cat lovers loved it. The rest of the readership—about 98 percent by best estimate, all of 'em hardcore (and apparently humorless) dog aficionados—were not amused. I received hate mail from PETA members…a couple of which I subsequently published, along with the suggestion they see their veterinarian for a distemper booster. Then the publisher's attorney faxed me a "cease and desist" memo—which I returned with a scribbled reminder that perhaps, in consideration of others, he should update his rabies shot. I figured sooner or later someone would get bit.

So I'm glad you were not offended by my earlier goofiness. You're obviously going to fit in just fine around here! :-)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Love those Dutchman's breeches Scribe - don't think we have them in UK - but we do have Soldier's Buttons and gorgous milkmaids. Our fields are peppered with them in June - so shall make a point of photographing them especially for you. Like the idea of them being elfin underwear - would be just right for my "little people" on the beck.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I look forward to seeing your photos and flowers. I do expect your wee folk of the beck will be delighted with their undies.

giggles said...

What FUN!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

If it ain't fun…well, it ain't fun.

Tutta la Storia said...

Awww . . . this reminds me of my childhood home--we had a little catch of these growing under the Spruce trees next to the house. WONDERFUL! Thanks for bringing me back!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tutta…

I'm so pleased the photo took you on a little daytrip back to your childhood home. That's a wonderful compliment. Thank you for sharing that.

If this was your first visit, welcome. If you've been hanging around in silence, you're equally welcome—though I'm always glad to hear from anyone who wishes to comment. I do hope you find other photos or pieces here that you enjoy…either in the files or as future postings.

dAwN said...

Howdee,
my first time to your blog..
very nice...great informative posts..
and a great sense of humor.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

dAwN…

Glad to have you visit…and hope you decide to return regularly.

We try our best to dispense fun whenever possible; humor, just seems to leap out of the bushes when we least expect it—and probably isn't all that funny sometimes unless you're on about your seventeenth cup of coffee or sorely in need of sleep. Then, of course, mere words such as "Rottweiler" or "chiropractor" are often hilarious…though you're never quite sure why the next day.

Genuine information occasionally gets passed along spite of our best efforts.

You'll be welcome anytime.