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Flowers have two tiny sepals and four petals. The flowers are bisymmetric: the two outer petals are spurred or pouched at the base and curved outwards or backwards at the tip, and the two inner ones with or without a crest at the tip. In Dicentra, all leaves are in a basal rosette, and flowers are on leafless stalks. In other genera with bisymmetric heart-shaped flowers (Lamprocapnos, Dactylicapnos, Ichtyoselmis, Ehrendorferia), leaves grow on stems as well as from the root.
Members of the genus Dicentra are annual or perennial herbaceous plants. The finely divided leaves are characteristically borne in a basal rosette. The unusual flowers are bilaterally symmetrical and have swollen or spur-shaped outer petals. Two compound stamens (male structures) and the pistil (female structure) are found between the inner petals. The seeds have fleshy structures known as elaiosomes to attract ants for dispersal. (Source: www.britannica.com)
Old fashioned bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) blooms in spring and after flowering, the foliage will gradually yellow and die back to the ground. If you wish, the foliage can be cut back when it starts to look tired and tattered. The plant may send up a fresh batch of leaves or it may just go dormant until the next spring. Plan ahead so nearby plants such as ferns, astilbes or hostas can fill in the gap.
Fern-leaf bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa) is native to the eastern US, where it grows naturally in woodlands and on rocky cliffs. The low-growing plants produce a mound of lacy foliage that looks good all season long. Bloom time is early summer. Fringed bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) blooms in early summer and may continue to flower on and off for months. Once they are well established, fern-leaf and fringed dicentras are more sun and drought tolerant than old fashioned bleeding heart.
About 35 isoquinoline alkaloids have been isolated from Fumariaceae, and such compounds are present in the tissues of all species. Some of these alkaloids have been used medicinally, mostly in the past. The drug complex corydalis, which contains several alkaloids extracted from the bulblets of Dicentra canadensis and D . cucullaria , has been used as a healing agent in chronic skin diseases, as a tonic and diuretic, and in the treatment of syphilis. The alkaloid bulbocapnine, obtained from all parts of D . canadensis , has been used in the treatment of Ménière's disease and muscular tremors, and as a pre-anaesthetic. Cattle find D . cucullaria and D . canadensis distasteful and usually do not ingest the plants unless suitable forage is unavailable; when they do, however, the toxic alkaloid cucullarine brings about local anaesthesia, narcosis, convulsions, and death. A decoction from the rhizome of D . formosa has been used in the Pacific Northwest to expel intestinal worms (D. E. Moerman 1986). (Source: www.efloras.org)