Ask your local candidate a question.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

NOTES FROM THE FALLEN TREE: Dutchman’s breeches – Aptly Named and Cleverly Evolved

Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). Photo by J. Correa-Krugel.

When deciding on the common name of plants and animals, naturalists tend to call them like they see them. Take this member of the poppy family, Dutchman’s breeches. They do, in fact, have the appearance of old-fashioned undergarments hanging from branches. 

The shape of the flowers actually has a purpose as the petals are upside down in order to keep rain or wind from washing away the pollen. 

It also serves to force potential pollinators to have to “work” for the nectar and pick up pollen grains in the process. 

Some bees have learned to bite a small hole at the end of the petal to get to the sweet nectar and evade the difficult process needed for pollination. 

This spring ephemeral is a favorite of early insects such as bumblebees and honeybees and can be found in rich woods, not far from streams or rivers. If you drive along Route 46 through the Warren County area, you can witness them scattered across the banks opposite the Delaware River. 

It is an understated sign of spring that is a joy to come across along trails. 

Jennifer Correa-Kruegel, Warren County Naturalist
Jennifer Correa-Kruegel, Warren County Naturalist

Jennifer has a Masters in Parks and Resource Management from Slippery Rock University. She worked as a Park Naturalist for Hunterdon County Park System from 2003-2006 and then at the NJSOC full-time from 2006 - 2020, starting as the Program Coordinator and evolving to an Environmental Educator. Jen is a New Jersey native and has lived in Warren County with her family since 2004. She is excited to be offering programs to this community she has grown to love.