font settings and languages

Font Size: Large | Normal | Small
Font Face: Verdana | Geneva | Georgia

Dicentra formosa

(Bleeding Heart)


[ Back to top ]

Interesting Facts

[ Back to top ]

Common Names

[ Back to top ]

Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in English:

Bleeding Heart, Bleeding-Heart, Pacific Bleeding Heart, Pacific Bleeding-Heart, Pacific Bleeding-Hearts, Western Bleeding Heart

Common Names in Swedish:



[ Back to top ]

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 formosa

Plants perennial , scapose , from elongate , stout rhizomes. Leaves (15-) 25-40(-55) × (8-) 12-20(-35) cm; blade with 3-5 orders of leaflets and lobes ; abaxial surface and sometimes adaxial surface glaucous; penultimate lobes oblong , distal ones usually coarsely 3-toothed at apex, (4-) 10-20(-50) × (1.5-) 3-4(-8) mm. Inflorescences paniculate , 2-30-flowered, usually exceeding leaves; bracts linear-lanceolate, 4-7(-12) × 1-2 mm, apex acuminate. Flowers pendent; sepals lanceolate to ovate or nearly round , 2-7 × 2-3 mm; petals rose-purple, pink, cream, or pale yellow, rarely white; outer petals (12-) 16-19(-24) × 3-6 mm, reflexed portion 2-5 mm; inner petals (12-) 15-18(-22) mm, blade 2-4 mm wide, claw linear-elliptic to linear-lanceolate, 7-10(-12) × 1-2 mm, crest 1-2 mm diam., exceeding apex by 1-2 mm; filaments of each bundle connate from base to shortly below anthers except for a 2-3 mm portion of median filament just above base; nectariferous tissue borne along distinct portion of median filament; style 3-9 mm; stigma rhomboid , 2-horned. Capsules oblong, 4-5 mm diam. Seeds reniform , ca. 2 mm diam., finely reticulate , elaiosome present. [source]

Andrews has been cited almost universally as the author of Fumaria formosa. However, Haworth's authorship of the sixth volume of Andrews' Botanists' Repository (in which this species was originally described) generally has been overlooked, and it was actually Haworth who first delineated F. formosa (W. T. Stearn 1944). [source]

Early attempts to cross Dicentra formosa with D. eximia (2 n = 16) failed, possibly because the D. formosa parents were tetraploids . Several later hybrids between the two species received plant patents and have become widely marketed throughout the flora area and elsewhere (K . R. Stern 1961, 1968; K. R. Stern and M. Ownbey 1971). [source]

Both subspecies , as well as hybrids between them and Dicentra eximia, are widely cultivated. [source]

Habit: Forb/herbGrowth Form: RhizomatousShape and Orientation: Erect

Flowers: Bloom Period: Early Summer • Flower Color: Purple • Flower Conspicuous: Yes

Seeds: Seed per Pound: 450000 • Seed Spread Rate: Moderate • Seedling Vigor: High • Fruit/Seed Abundance: Low • Fruit/Seed Color: Black • Fruit/Seed Conspicuous: No • Cold Stratification Required: Yes

Foliage: Foliage Color: Green • Foliage Porosity Summer: Porous • Foliage Porosity Winter: Porous • Foliage Texture: Fine • Fall Conspicuous: No • Leaf Retention: No


Active Growth Period: Spring and Summer • Growth Rate: Rapid • After Harvest Regrowth Rate: Rapid • Mature Height (feet): 1.5 • Size: 12-18" tall. • Vegetative Spread Rate: Moderate • Lifespan: Lifespan


Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 2,147 meters (0 to 7,044 feet).[3]


[ Back to top ]


Duration: PerennialCoppice Potential: No • Progagated by Bulbs: No • Propagated by Bare Root: Yes • Propagated by Container: Yes • Propagated by Corms: Yes • Propagated by Cuttings: Yes • Propagated by Seed: Yes • Propagated by Sod: No • Propagated by Sprigs: No • Propagated by Tubers: Yes • Fruit/Seed Period Begin: Summer • Fruit/Seed Period End: FallFruit/Seed Persistence: No


Culture: Space 12-15" apart.

Soil: Adapted to Medium Textured: Adapted to Medium Textured Soils • Adapted to Coarse Textured Soils: Yes • Anaerobic Tolerance: Low • Salinity Tolerance: None • CaCO3 Tolerance: None • Minimum pH: 5.5 • Maximum pH: 6.0 • Fertility Requirement: Medium

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Light Shade. • Shade Tolerance: Tolerant

Moisture: Drought Tolerance: None • Minimum Precipitation: 55 • Maximum Precipitation: 155 • Moisture Use: Low

Temperature: Minimum Temperature (F): -23 • Minimum Frost Free Days: 200 • Cold Hardiness: 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b. (map)


[ Back to top ]


Bicuculla formosa (Haw.) Howell • Dicentra saccata (Nuttall Ex Torrey & A. Gray) Walpers • Eucapnos Formosus • Eucapnos formosus (Haw.) Bernh. • Fumaria formosa Haw. • Fumaria formosa Haworth


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 15-Mar-2000

Similar Species

[ Back to top ]

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

[ Back to top ]

Further Reading

[ Back to top ]


[ Back to top ]


Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 18, 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. Mean = 374.030 meters (1,227.133 feet), Standard Deviation = 482.510 based on 582 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2015-01-30