Monday, April 13, 2009
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.