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- Squirrel Corn-Dicentra canadensis Hardy Planting Zones- 2-9 Sun or Shade – Partial Sun to Partial Shade Mature Height - 6-12" Mature Width- 6" Bloom Season – Spring (April to May) Gardener Status- Beginner
Squirrel Corn - Dicentra canadensis
The Dicentra canadensis, known to most of us by the more intriguing name of Squirrel Corn, is a perennial that is native to the deciduous hardwood forests and woodlands of the eastern regions of North America. The Squirrel Corn is known for its unique and, at times, bizarrely shaped root network that give the plant its name, or at least, part of its name. The tangle of roots ends in clusters of yellow nodules, resembling a kernel of corn. We don't look at flowering plants for their roots, however, and the blooms of the Squirrel Corn don't disappoint. The beautiful flowers of the Squirrel Corn, blossoming for only a short period each spring, are white, heart-shaped petals, less than an inch long and 1/2 an inch wide. The remainder of the stem, generally a darker green or brown tint, usually sags or arches towards the ground. Squirrel Corn has triangular leaves that can grow up to 9 inches in length and divide multiple times, creating a delicate, lace-like pattern. The leaves are generally smooth with a waxy underside. The Squirrel Corn has been considered an at-risk species due to invasive predators like the earthworm. The plants can grow to a height of 1 foot, providing an eye-catching height for most gardens. Squirrel Corn also closely resembles its cousins, the Bleeding Heart, and the Dutchmen's Breeches. The chemicals the make up the Squirrel Corn plant are, as with many garden plants, toxic to mammals if consumed in large quantities. Ants, however, are safe from this plant and, in fact, the small insect's partner with the Squirrel Corn, as with the Dutchmen's Breeches, to help disseminate its seeds. The ants are attracted to the nutritious elaiosome, found on the seeds of the plant. That movement of the seed, between plant and ant hill, has allowed this plant to flourish and spread in its natural environment.
Squirrel corn gets its name from the leaves and flowers that come out of yellow tubers which resemble the look of corn kernels. It grows to be a foot tall. It is best grown in hardiness zones 3 through 7. The plant is easy to grow and is used as an ornamental plant in the garden.
Squirrel corn is a perennial that produces flowers that are heart shape in the mid-spring that will stay in bloom for up to 3 weeks. The color of the flowers is pale pink and white. There is a mildly sweet fragrance to the flowers. The leaves of the plant appear very early in the blooming season, however, are entirely gone by May.
The plant likes being in the sun but will do well in partial shade. The plant prefers being in loose loamy soil. Growing period of the plant is during the spring months. This plant is not susceptible to diseases or insects.
Legend has it that this plant was used as a love charm. Young men would through the perfumed flowers at the women that they wanted to marry. These plants an easy way to add love to the garden.