On My Knees for Bleeding Heart

Pacific Bleeding Heart emerging flower buds

Our woods are blessed in many places with a large carpet of our native Pacific bleeding heart, Dicentra formosa. I’ve been seeing the foliage emerging from the ground for at least a couple of weeks now, but this was the first week that I’ve noticed any flower buds. It’s hard to see them unless you get down on your knees and look closely. The clusters of flower buds are less than 1/2 inch across, but growing bigger by the day. We’re still many days from the flowering opening. In 2019 I first photographed our bleeding heart on April 25, but I don’t recall when I saw the first precocious flower.

Pacific Bleeding Heart young foliage carpets forest floor

In this photo you can see a piece of one of my favorite patches of bleeding heart, photographed just a week ago when I didn’t see any flower buds. It’s the same place in our woods as the two pictures of flower buds.

Pacific Bleeding Heart emerging flower buds

You’ll notice that the flowers are held on a separate stem from the leaves. Each leaf is on its own stem, too. Bleeding heart is a rhizomatous perennial, meaning it has roots that spread underground and pop up new plants every so often. The foliage dies back in the summer (summer dormant) and the roots go into a resting stage during the dry months, ready to spring back into action the next year as winter fades away.

Bleeding heart prefers fairly rich forest soil with a mix of sun and shade. The roots are fairly shallow so it’s easy to transplant from one part of your property to another if you’d like to get it going in a new place. Just remember, don’t dig up stuff from someone else’s property whether it’s public or private.

For more information about Pacific bleeding heart, and more photos, visit its page on my Pacific Northwest Wildflowers website.

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