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Squirrel Corn, Wild turkey-pea, Turkey Corn, Colicweed, Ghost Corn, Lyre Flower - Dicentra canadensis


Family: Fumariaceae - Fumitory family Genus Common Name: Bleeding Heart Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Herb
Dicentra canadensis - Squirrel Corn, Wild turkey-pea, Turkey Corn, Colicweed, Ghost Corn, Lyre Flower. Dicentra is a genus of about 20 species, of which 7 to 11 are found in North America, depending on which authorities you follow (and whether you include the highly cultivated, non-native Dicentra spectabilis species - which may now be classified as Lamprocapnos spectabilis.) Dicentra canadensis is one of 3 or 4 species found in the eastern United States (Dicentra formosa - Pacific Bleeding Heart, native to the far western U.S. - may occasionally be found wild in the east as a garden escapee, but those populations are unlikely to persist.)

Dicentra canadensis (Squirrel Corn) is found in rich forest coves of eastern North America as far south as northern Georgia (in the mountains) and perhaps in South Carolina. It is protected as Threatened, Endangered, or Of Special Concern in Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota (due to habitat threat by invasive species), New Hampshire, and New Jersey. It blooms in April and May.

The plant has yellow underground corms shaped like corn kernels, providing the most commonly used common name of Squirrel Corn.

Found in:
CT, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV, GS
Dicentra canadensis

Distribution of Dicentra canadensis in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 24 Jun 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Sevier County, TN Date: 2016-April-21Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The genus name Dicentra comes from the two nectar spurs at the top of the flower. The flower of Squirrel Corn look to me like a combination of Eastern Bleeding Heart and Dutchman's Breeches. The shape is similar to Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia) but shortened. The coloration, while it can be pinkish, is more like that of Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). The nectar spurs of Squirrel Corn, while typically more elongated than those of Eastern Bleeding Heart, are rounded into a heart shape, unlike those of Dutchman's Breeches, which are somewhat spreading, elongated, and pointed.
Dicentra canadensis

Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Sevier County, TN Date: 2016-April-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The inflorescence of Squirrel Corn, like that of Dutchman's Breeches, is made of flowers on pedicels held from an unbranched stalk - a raceme. The inflorescence of Eastern Bleeding Heart is branched.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Dicentra canadensis

Site: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Sevier County, TN Date: 2016-April-21Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Dicentra canadensis rarely grows to more than a foot high. The leaves are compound, basal and long-stalked, and are multiply divided into narrow lobes.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Dicentra canadensis

References used for identification and information:

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer