Dicentra formosa

These photographs are from early June near Cook and Green Pass in northern California, which was a bit of a surprise as I usually associate Pacific bleeding-heart with April and early May hundreds of kilometres north in the Vancouver area. Elevation was a factor (about 2000ft / 600m compared to Vancouver’s near sea-level), but more important was that these plants (and other typical spring flowers) were growing and blooming in the shade of a north-facing rocky wall.

Dicentra formosa ranges from southern British Columbia to California. There are two subspecies, Dicentra formosa subsp. formosa (shown in today’s photos) and the southwest Oregon/northwest California Dicentra formosa subsp. oregana. The latter is quite distinct from the type subspecies, with cream-coloured flowers, more glaucous foliage, and a more robust growth habit among the differences.

Pacific bleeding-heart is a common ornamental of shade gardens. A number of cultivated selections and hybrids have been made, including the wine-red flowered Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’. Wikipedia lists a number of other garden taxa: Dicentra formosa.

Dicentra formosa
Dicentra formosa

7 responses to “Dicentra formosa”

  1. Peony Fan

    Beautiful foliage as well as flowers–thank you for this posting. I had always assumed the specific epithet referred to the island of Formosa,i.e., Taiwan but that can’t be accurate if this plant is a native of Canada.

  2. Elizabeth par is

    Such lovely flowers and photos. Spring will be here soon in victoria and I shall be watching the flowers as they come into bloom. It’s an exciting time.

  3. Daniel Mosquin

    Peony Fan — formosana means “of Taiwan”, while formosa means “beautiful”.

  4. Linda Miller

    Daniel, What a beautiful flower and your photo is outstanding. What an amazing design. Do you know its pollinator? Linda Miller

  5. Debby

    I’ve been taking the dicentras in my garden for granted. This reminds me to pay more attention. The plants’ forms and colours really are lovely. Thanks for the great closeups, Daniel!

  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Linda, pollinators are reported as being hummingbirds and bumblebees, though I don’t recall observing either.
    These are also larval host plants for Clodius Parnassians.

  7. Lyle Anderson

    An explanation of the pollination process by bees is described in the book “Bleeding Hearts, Corydalis, And Their Relatives” by Mark Tebbitt, Magnus Liden, and Henrik Zetterlund.

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