Bleeding Heart

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What flower is more romantic and classic than the Bleeding Heart? Click here for much more information about this classic beauty!

The common name refers to Dicentra spectabilis, whose unopened flowers resemble a heart with a drop of blood beneath it. Upon closer inspection of the open blossom, one can see how it earned its botanical name Dicentra, from the Greek words dis “twice”, and kentron “spurred”.

The genus is made up of 8 species and several cultivars, all of which go dormant in mid to late summer to ride out the dry season beneath the ground in rhizome form.

Here at the Gardens, despite the cold wet weather, our native Dicentra formosa is springing out of dormancy, with fresh fern-like blue-green foliage and arching stems of delicate pink flowers. In a light rain, the slightly glaucous leaves catch and display raindrops like thousands of tiny shimmering pearls. It can be found thriving in the perennial garden, along the south trail and throughout the natural areas.          

Woodland settings are their true home, but when we removed Birch trees from the perennial garden exposing the full sun they seemed to become sun worshipers given adequate water. Our cool foggy climate was indeed a factor, so don’t try this where it’s hot.

In the Nursery, The Old Fashioned D. Spectabilis are available in both white and pink, along with cultivar ‘Stuart Boothman’, an especially elegant variety, with finely dissected blue-grey leaves and profuse clusters of pendulous flowers.

FLASH, FLASH, FLASH---Name change: Lamprocapnos is now the accepted genera for Dicentra.

Don’t expect nurseries to make this change soon, but as a botanical garden our labels will reflect the botanist's decision. Most new publications will list Dicentra as the synonym to keep confusion to a minimum, but ‘Bleeding Heart’ will never change. You may wonder how this change came about? DNA! It’s changing what we assumed about plant identification to solid knowledge.

You must come see this lovely group of plants even if they are having an identity crisis. Perhaps your OOHS and AAHS will make them more comfortable.