A native flower and a tree with heart

The happiest moments my heart knows are those in which it is pouring forth its affections to a few esteemed characters. ~ Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to his friend Eliza House Trist sent from Paris on Dec. 15, 1786

In Sunday’s column (Feb. 12, 2017), I wrote about plants with heart-shaped leaves, including a plant that is native to our region called Asarum caudatum, or Wild Ginger. I also want to mention two other native plants with heart – Dicentra formosa, Pacific Bleeding Heart, and Cercis occidentalis, the Western redbud tree.
Dicentra formosa is a perennial that is smaller and daintier looking than its cousin, Dicentra spectabilis,with pale green, delicately cut foliage that grows from 6-20 inches high.

Pacific Bleeding Heart - Picture from Plant Oregon Nursery

Pendulous clusters of light to deep pink heart-shaped flowers hang from nodding stems that rise 6 inches above the leaves. The flowers bloom from April to June and again when the weather turns cooler in the fall. The leaves go dormant in the summertime.

Pacific Bleeding Heart thrives in shade gardens with dappled sunlight when planted in moist but well-draining soil with lots of organic matter. Plant them in groups with compost and mulch to create a beautiful groundcover. The flowers attract hummingbirds and the leaves are a host plant for a species of butterfly in the swallowfamily. The plants are also deer-resistant!

Western redbud - Picture from Las Palitas Nursery

I always look forward to the springtime display of purple-pink flowers on the Western redbud trees in my neighborhood. The flowers of this small, deciduous tree emerge before the beautiful heart-shaped leaves that are green in the spring and summer and turn red or yellow in the fall. Purplish seed pods hang from the tree in the winter; the seedpods and flowers are edible.
Redbud trees love the seasonal climate in our region; in fact, they need a winter chill in order to bloom well. Redbuds tolerate a vareity of soils, inlcluding acidic clay soils, and the flowers attrract birds, bees and butterfies.
I found this excerpt of a poem written by a Texas teenager, “CrazyMK,” that describes the difficulty in capturing the beauty of a bleeding heart on paper:
Bleeding Heart

Dicentra spectabilis - Photo from botanika.wendys.cz

The flower’s petals blooming wide
Winding grooves the charcoal rides
A bleeding heart that’s drawn with care
Deep, dark secrets lying there
The tired artist tries and tries
To make the picture come alive

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  • About the Author

    Rhonda Nowak

    Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, writer and teacher. With more than 25 years of gardening experience and a Ph.D. in literature and language arts education, she combines a love for plants, poetry, and prose in her Literary Gardener blog. ... Full Profile
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