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Dicentra canadensis

(Squirrel Corn)


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Interesting Facts

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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in English:

Squirrel Corn, Squirrel-Corn, Turkey Corn, Turkey-Corn

Common Names in French:

dicentre capuchon rose, Dicentre Du Canada


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Family Papaveraceae

Herbs or subshrubs , shrubs , or small trees , annual , biennial, or perennial , scapose or caulescent , usually from taproots , sometimes from rhizomes; sap clear, white, or colored , often sticky. Stems leafy or naked, erect , spreading , or decumbent , simple or branching. Leaves basal and/or cauline, alternate to opposite or whorled , simple, without stipules, petiolate or sessile; blade unlobed or with 1-3 odd-pinnate, subpalmate, or palmate orders of lobes . Inflorescences axillary or terminal , unifloral or else multifloral and cymiform, racemose, umbelliform, corybiform, or paniculate , pedunculate or subsessile ; bracts usually present. Flowers radially symmetric , pedicellate or sessile; receptacle sometimes expanded and forming cup or ring beneath calyx (only in Eschscholzia, Meconella, and Platystemon ) ; perianth and androecium sometimes perigynous; sepals caducous , 2 or 3, distinct or connate , usually obovate ; petals distinct, usually obovate, mostly 2 times number of sepals, sometimes more or absent; stamens many or 4-15 (only in Meconella and Canbya ) ; anthers 2-locular; pistil 1, 2-18[-22]-carpellate; ovary 1-2-locular or incompletely to completely multilocular by placental intrusion; placentas 2 or more, parietal ; style 1 or absent; stigmas or stigma lobes 2-many. Fruits capsular , dehiscence valvate , poricidal , or transverse , or carpels dissociating and breaking transversely into 1-seeded segments (only in Platystemon ) . Seeds usually many, small, sometimes arillate or carunculate.

Genera 25-30 (17 genera, 63 species in the flora ) : worldwide, mainly Northern Hemisphere.

According to W. R. Ernst (1962b), Papaveraceae "may be divided conveniently into four subfamilies." His scheme is followed here, but with the subfamilies taken up in alphabetic order; they seem to be natural groups, but their phylogenetic interrelationships are not yet clear. Similarly, the evolutionary relationships within the subfamilies remain ambiguous, and the genera in each are listed alphabetically. Subfamily Chelidonioideae Ernst includes genera 1-5; subf. Eschscholzioideae Ernst, genera 6-7; subf. Papavaroideae Ernst, genera 8-14; and subf. Platostamenoideae Ernst, genera 15-17.[1]

Genus Dicentra

Herbs, annual or perennial , scapose or caulescent , from taproots , bulblets, tubers, or rhizomes. Stems when present erect , simple or branching, hollow at maturity. Leaves basal or cauline, compound ; blade with 2-4 orders of leaflets and lobes , margins entire, crenate, or serrate; surfaces glabrous , sometimes glaucous. Inflorescences axillary , extra-axillary , leaf-opposed, or terminal , unifloral or else multifloral and thyrsoid , paniculate , racemose, or corymbose . Flowers bilaterally symmetric about each of 2 perpendicular planes ; sepals caducous ; corolla cordate to oblong in outline; petals coherent or connate only basally, not spongy ; outer petals both swollen or spurred basally, usually keeled apically; inner petals with blade fiddle-, spoon-, or arrowhead-shaped, claw linear-oblong to oblanceolate ; stamens with nectariferous tissue borne on median filament in each bundle and sometimes forming spur or loop that projects into swollen base of adjacent outer petal; ovary broadly ovoid or obovoid to narrowly cylindric ; stigma persistent , with 2 lobes or apical horns, sometimes also with 2 lateral papillae. Capsules indehiscent or dehiscent and 2-valved. Seeds few-many, elaiosome usually present. x = 8.

Species 20: temperate North America and eastern Asia.

About 35 isoquinoline alkaloids have been isolated from Fumariaceae, and such compounds are present in the tissues of all species. Some of these alkaloids have been used medicinally, mostly in the past. The drug complex corydalis, which contains several alkaloids extracted from the bulblets of Dicentra canadensis and D. cucullaria, has been used as a healing agent in chronic skin diseases, as a tonic and diuretic, and in the treatment of syphilis. The alkaloid bulbocapnine, obtained from all parts of D. canadensis, has been used in the treatment of Ménière's disease and muscular tremors, and as a pre-anaesthetic. Cattle find D. cucullaria and D. canadensis distasteful and usually do not ingest the plants unless suitable forage is unavailable ; when they do, however, the toxic alkaloid cucullarine brings about local anaesthesia, narcosis, convulsions, and death . A decoction from the rhizome of D. formosa has been used in the Pacific Northwest to expel intestinal worms (D. E. Moerman 1986).

Dicentra spectabilis (Linnaeus) Lemaire is cultivated through much of the flora area. It was introduced in Europe only in the middle of the 19th century, but it has been cultivated for centuries in temperate China and Japan, where it is now so widespread that the limits of its natural distribution are obscure . It does not appear to be truly naturalized in North America, but it may be encountered as a transitory garden relict or escape . It differs from D. ochroleuca and D. chrysantha in having rose-purple to pink or sometimes white outer petals, pendent flowers, and reticulate seeds with elaiosomes.

Berg , R. Y. 1969. Adaptation and evolution in Dicentra (Fumariaceae), with special reference to seed, fruit, and dispersal mechanism . Nytt Mag. Bot. 16(1) : 49-75. Fahselt, D. 1970. The anthocyanins of Dicentra (Fumariaceae). Canad. J. Bot. 48(1) : 49-53. Fahselt, D. and M. Ownbey. 1968. Chromatographic comparison of Dicentra species and hybrids. Amer. J. Bot. 55: 334-345. Stern, K . R. 1961. Revision of Dicentra (Fumariaceae). Brittonia 13(1) : 1-57. Stern, K. R. 1962. The use of pollen morphology in the taxonomy of Dicentra. Amer. J. Bot. 49: 362-368. Stern, K. R. 1970. Pollen aperture variation and phylogeny in Dicentra. Madroño 20: 354-359. Stern, K. R. and M. Ownbey. 1971. Hybridization and cytotaxonomy of Dicentra. Amer. J. Bot. 58(9) : 861-866.[2]

Physical Description

Species Dicentra canadensis

Plants perennial , scapose , from short rootstocks bearing yellow, globose bulblets. Leaves (10-) 14-24(-30) × (4-) 6-14(-18) cm; petiole (5-) 8-16(-22) cm; blade with 4 orders of leaflets and lobes ; abaxial surface glaucous; ultimate lobes linear to linear-elliptic or linear-obovate, (2-) 5-15(-23) × (0.4-) 2-4 mm, usually minutely apiculate . Inflorescences racemose, 3-12-flowered, usually exceeding leaves, (10-) 15-27(-33) cm; bracts ovate , 2-5 × 1-3 mm. Flowers pendent, very fragrant; pedicels (2-) 3-7(-14) mm; sepals triangular to ovate, 2-4 × 1-2 mm, apex acuminate; petals white; outer petals (10-) 12-16(-20) × (2-) 4-5(-8) mm, reflexed portion 3-5 mm; inner petals (10-) 12-15(-18) mm, blade 2-4 mm, claw linear-elliptic, 5-9 mm, crest prominent , ca. 2 mm diam., exceeding apex by ca. 2 mm; filaments of each bundle distinct nearly to base ; nectariferous tissue forming 0.5-1 mm spur oriented vertically; style 4-7 mm; stigma shallowly 2-horned with 2 lateral papillae. Capsules ovoid , attenuate at both ends, (5-) 9-13(-17) × 3-6 mm. Seeds slightly reniform , very obscurely reticulate , elaiosome present. [source]

Flowers: Bloom Period: March. • Flower Color: near white, pale pink, white


Size: 6-12" tall.


Deciduous woods , often among rock outcrops, in rich loam soils; 0-1500 m [3].


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Culture: Space 9-12" apart.

Soil: Minimum pH: 5.6 • Maximum pH: 7.8

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Light Shade.

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b. (map)


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Bicuculla canadensis (Goldie) Millspaugh • Corydalis canadensis Goldie • Edinburgh Philos. J. 6: 329. 1822


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 15-Mar-2000

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Dicentra

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 45 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

D. canadensis (Squirrel Corn) · D. cucullaria (Dutchman's Breeches) · D. exima 'Snowflakes' (Bleeding Heart) · D. eximia (Fringed Bleeding Heart) · D. eximia 'Snowflakes' (Turkey Corn) · D. eximia 'Alan Bloom' (Fringed Bleeding Heart) · D. eximia 'Aurora' (Aurora Bleeding Heart) · D. eximia 'Luxuriant' (Luxuriant Bleeding Heart) · D. eximia 'Stuart Boothman' (Stuart Boothman Dwarf Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa (Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa oregana (Pacific Bleeding-Heart) · D. formosa oregona (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Adrian Bloom' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Aurora' (Aurora Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Bacchanal' (Bacchanal Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Boothman's Variety' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Bountiful' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Langtrees' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Luxuriant' (Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Margery Fish' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Pearl Drops' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Silver Smith' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Snowdrift' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Sweetheart' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. formosa 'Zestful' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. macrantha (Chinese Bleeding Heart) · D. macrocapnos (Bleeding Heart Vine) · D. nevadensis (Sierra Bleeding Heart) · D. ochroleuca (Yellow Bleedingheart) · D. pauciflora (Few-Flower Bleedinghearts) · D. peregrina (Dicentra) · D. scandens (Bleeding Heart Vine) · D. scandens 'Athens Yellow' (Yellow Climbing Bleeding Heart) · D. spectabilis 'Alba' (Bleeding Heart) · D. spectabilis 'Gold Heart' (Bleeding Heart) · D. spectabilis 'Rosea' (Bleeding Heart) · D. uniflora (Longhorn Steer's-Head) · D. x 'Luxuriant' (Fern-Leaf Bleeding Heart) · D. 'Bacchanal' (Bacchanal Bleeding Heart) · D. 'Coldham' (Bleeding Heart) · D. 'Ivory Hearts' (Dwarf Bleeding Heart) · D. 'King of Hearts' (Bleeding Heart) · D. 'Luxuriant' (Pacific Bleeding Heart) · D. 'Snowflakes' (Bleeding Heart) · D. 'Snowflake' (Fernleaf Bleeding Heart)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 22, 2007:



  1. Robert W. Kiger "Papaveraceae". in Flora of North America Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  2. Kingsley R. Stern "Dicentra". in Flora of North America Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  3. "Dicentra canadensis". in Flora of North America Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
Last Revised: 2015-01-30