Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Pacific Bleeding Heart - Dicentra Formosa


General Perennial herb.[IFBC][E-flora] "20–45 cm, sometimes glaucous". [Jepson-2]
Flowers Nodding [Foster&Hobbs] inflorescence of 5-15 [IFBC][E-flora] or 3-20 flowers.[HNW] Pinkish-purple [PCBC2004] or rose-pink. "Occasional white flowered plants are to be expected." [PSW] "Heart-shaped, with flared tips." [WildPNW] 6 stamens, in 2 sets. [Foster&Hobbs]
Fruits Pod-like capsules [IFBC][E-flora] 2-3.5 cm. long. [HNW] The seeds are black and shiny[IFBC] [E-flora] "...with [a] small, white. oil-rich appendage". [PCBC2004]
Leaves The leaves are All Basal [PCBC2004] and long-petioled.[HNW] The leaves are 3-4 times divided [IFBC][E-flora] "into fern-like segments [or "...narrowly oblong ultimate segments." [PCBC2004]], often with a bluish waxy coating." [WildPNW] 2-ternately dissected. [Jepson-2]
Stem Flowering stems leafless. [PCBC2004]
Root Brittle rhizome.[IFBC][E-flora][PCBC2004] Fleshy, scaly rhizomes. [HNW]
Habitat Coastal, meadows, shade, or near large rocks.[WildPNW] "Moist woodlands, forests and streambanks".[IFBC][E-flora] Damp, shaded areas. [Jepson-2]
Range Common in SW BC.[IFBC][E-flora] Locally common. Coastal Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.[WildPNW] "Northwestern California, Cascade Range, High Sierra Nevada, n Central Western California." [Jepson-2]
Status Native.[IFBC][E-flora]
Ecological Indicator Shade-tolerant/intolerant. Western North American. Fresh to very moist, nitrogen-rich soils; "Sporadic to plentiful in the herbaceous understory of young-seral forests on water-receiving sites; most common in broad­leaved forests. Occasional in early-seral communities on disturbed sites (burns and clearings). A nitrophytic species". [IPBC][E-flora]
Similar Species


Medicinal Uses


"...fresh root tincture 1 to 2, in 150 rum, using anywhere from 10 to 30 drops. Internally he has found it effective for the aftermath of accidents, attacks, trauma, especially if the after effect is a continued racing heart or the beginning of an asthma attack. It can be useful for quickly induced depression caused by the former. It breaks the cycle of grief-shock, and allows the person to function....It can also be used topically, though it may take a bit of time to kick in." [herbalistpath]

"Some can be put on cotton ball and inserted it around an abscessed tooth. While the root of yarrow acts much faster, Bleeding Heart goes deeper down the nerve. It can also be used on painful surgical scars as a liniment." [herbalistpath]

Forum Conversations [Various sources. References may not be given]

"...a narcotic-analgesic used for pain and central nervous disorders. Used as a mood-elevating antispasmodic and sedative".(eastbae,Oct 21 08 2:38 AM) [herbs.mxf.yuku]


Digestive, diuretic and anthelmintic.[Quattrocchi WDMPP]


Bicuculline "from species of Corydalis and Dicentra (Fumariaceae) and its quaternary methiodide have been identified as potent GABA antagonists and have found widespread application as pharmacological probes for convulsants acting at GABA neuroreceptors." [MNP Dewick]

"Cordyline and bulbocapnine are narcotic alkaloids isolated from ''Dicentra canadensis and D. formosa'' (Pacific bleedinghearts, used by the Skagit tribe"'), once known in the northwestern United States as toothache remedies." [Volansky]

D. formosa var. brevifolia L.F. Hend [Quattrocchi WDMPP]
Dicentra formosa subsp. nevadensis (Eastw.) Munz [E-flora]

Uses of Other Related Sp

"18 species: North America, Asia; some ornamental. (Greek: twice spurred, from outer petals) Other species in TJM (1993) moved to Ehrendorferia (Liden et al. 1997 Plant Syst Evol 206:411–420)."[Jepson] Dicentra spp.; Bicuculline, Metiodine. [Elsevier ASOL]

"Symptoms of poisoning include trembling, agitation, heavy salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, tenseness of muscles, difficulty in breathing, and prostration. Recovery is usually rapid and complete.... Members of the genus Corydalis, related to Dicentra, also contain toxic isoquinoline alkaloids." Several Corydalis species are native to North America. "Although not implicated in human poisoning, they have caused poisoning and death in animals." [CPPlantMush] Any part of any species may cause skin irritation with contact. [KYP James]


Page last modified on Saturday, December 25, 2021 3:50 AM