A few miles down
the Hadley Road we spotted two good hardwood lengths and stopped to pick
them up. They were both too large to fit in the trunk of the car, and
too heavy to lift as well. Disappointed, I began looking around for some
smaller logs or branches as a consolation prize. Pete had already gotten
back in the car and started the engine when I hit the jackpot. Blooming
amidst the rocks and leaf litter I spotted the elusive Dutchman's Breeches.
This is a plant I have seen for years in every identification guide and
wildflower book I have looked at, and until this very minute had never
seen it in the wild. I believe I actually shrieked.
Pete must have thought
I got bit by a snake or something, as he leaped out of the car to my rescue.
What is it?
Breeches, I said.
I had, as far as
I could see, little choice but to stay put and record this delightful
plant right then and there in my sketch book, which luckily I had on the
front seat. Pete had a library book on hand as well for just such anticipated
(Dicentra cucullaria) is a distinctive and most attractive plant
apparently common in the woods throughout the Northeast. The bright white
bloomer-shaped flowers with yellow waist bands hang delicately in a neat
little row upside down from the fragile arched stem looking much like
a petite wood elf or perhaps an enterprising Victorian salamander had
just hung out her undergarments for a day's drying in the sun. Two long-stalked
leaves flank the sides of our lady's wash line with the most finely cut
blue-green compound leaves imaginable. The leaf and flower stalks are
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