The Truth About Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding heart... a sweet, romantic, old-fashioned flower.  For many gardeners, this may have been one of the first flowers that they learned the botanical name for.

Dicentra spectabilis.

An easy name to pronounce, even the most timid gardener, still unsure of her botanical names, might be willing to pronounce it out loud in front of other gardeners.

Dicentra spectabilis.

But this name is no more! Fellow gardeners, a tip of the hoe to Layanee of Ledge and Gardens for alerting me that the plant taxonomists changed the name of bleeding heart, now formerly Dicentra spectabilis, to...

Lamprocapnos spectabilis.

I can hear everyone saying it now... "Again?" "Why?" "How does this help?"

Ours is not to wonder why, ours is to remember both names because it is apparently taking awhile for those who sell bleeding hearts to catch up to this genus name change. It will likely be sold for years to come as Dicentra.   And no, it does not make you look smarter as a gardener to see it labeled as such at the garden center and announce to no one in particular, "Oh, look Lamprocapnos spectabilis! When will they catch up to its new name. Dicentra is its old name."

Nor will you look smart if you start in on how it is in the Fumiariaceae family, commonly called the fumitory family.

None of that will make you look smart at all because apparently, this name changed was published in 1997. How could we have missed it?

To find out more about this name change, I went down the rabbit hole and came up with some scholarly journals that made very little sense, but then took a turn somewhere and discovered the book Bleeding Hearts, Corydalis, and Their Relatives By Mark C. Tebbitt, Magnus Lidén, and Henrik Zetterlund (2008, Timber Press, $34.95).

Some of the content of this book appears online via Google books.  I've looked through enough of it that now I want my own copy. That's what happens sometimes in those ol' rabbit holes. You find stuff you didn't know existed and then you want it, just like that. Be forewarned should you decide to go down a rabbit hole yourself. If it is your first time, consider taking a guide with you.

I also want some more Lamprocapnos for my garden, such a sweet spring bloom, even though it is a fumitory from the Fumiariaceae family. It is easy to grow and asks for very little in the garden - partial to full shade, good soil, regular watering, and an occasional admiring glance at its unusual looking blooms. The one I have now is a passalong plant from my sister, the one who does not garden, which begs the question of how she had a plant that I took a start of for my own garden.

I'll leave that answer for another day and spend today committing Lamprocapnos to memory. It's about time, I'm 14 years behind!


At least I feel smarter now that I have read your blog! I didn't know about the name change either. Hmmm...I guess we have just been too busy gardening! Happy May Day!
Anonymous said…
I had forgotten that I have one of those, but it didn't come back this year!

Oh, I remember why, the St. Bernard dug it up. :-( Maybe my big sister will give me a pass-along?

Your little sister.
I knew Dicentra has a new name, but ignored it. Check out 'Burning Hearts,' a fernleaf hybrid with bigger, showier flowers and staying power in the summer garden. I'm also told 'Gold Heart' (D. spectabilis) also will hang out all summer when given a little water. I may have to try one of those.
Layanee said…
Can I send you a white one? They re-seed everywhere those darn Lamprocapnos! Thanks for 'link love' and now I am going to have to look up that book. Down the rabbit hole as you say.
Fairegarden said…
1997!!! Man, who knew? Like the asters and sedums, I am sticking with the old name. Sometimes they will change them back and then we look even smarter. :-)
ps, I hope big sis shares!
I didn't know either. How odd and unpronoucable. Dang it. I hate it when they change names. Look at the poor coleus.

Love those rabbit holes. Yes, a guide would be good for me when I go down the daylily rabbit hole. Man alive!~~Dee
ARK said…
I just discovered I have one...a big one and I took some to transplant, and it did well...happiness!!

Burning heart sounds lovely....
p3chandan said…
Here in Malaysia Bleeding Heart is a Clerodendrum thomsoniae which is a vine grown as a shrub by regular pruning. The calyx is white with a contrasting red corolla which looks like a bleeding heart. Your Bleeding Heart is much bigger that ours.
Commonweeder said…
These name changes are so confusing - and hard to take hold. When I got my most stunning rose bush at least 25 years ago it was Rosa rubrifolia, then became Rosa glauca. I often use both names in my blog because the old name is still so familiar to many people. Your bleeding heart is beautiful by any name.
Søren said…
I'll stick to the name my grandmother told me: Løjtnantshjerte, lieutenant's heart. Sounds romantic, but apparently the Danish name comes a) fromt he outer shape of the flower and b) because when turned upside-down the inner part of the flower looks like a bottle of booze and c) because the inner part splits in two and when turned back upside-up will look like a shapely pair of women's legs... And that, at least according to my grandmother (why told me this story jokingly), is supposedly all a lieutenant cares about. Booze and women...

Perhaps not so unequivocally romantic as bleeding heart, but a lot more interesting. And it beats Lamprocapnos by MILES!
I just saw this name in a magazine recently, but I'm sticking with Dicentra.
I moved one years ago and now have them coming up from the roots I left behind. One of my favorite spring bloomers and they are about 6 weeks behind right now.
Helen said…
By coincidence, I just learned about this name change, too, so am also all those years behindhand. Have to figure out the etymology of Lamprocapnos so I can remember the danged name; dicentra was easy to recall, due to the flower shape. Oh well, meet you over by the Hylotelephium. I'll be the one wearing the Symphytotrichum.
I hate all those busy body taxonomist busy getting paid to make our life a living hell. All that time learning those names so they can wave the magic wand and make them another. What a pain.
Bom said…
I think I will stick to Bleeding Hearts for now. Thank you very much. ;-)
They do this infernal name changing with birds too. Quite maddening.
robbie said…
Around here, we just keep it simple. My daughter calls it her "heart flower," as she plucks each petal off for me. :-)
carolee said…
Thanks for the was news to me! My favorite is Gold Heart...the foliage is worth planting even without the flowers! Just sold my last one, or I would pass one along to you.
Ivynettle said…
The 'Zander Dictionary of Plant Names', which I was taught to consider the ultimate authority on nomenclature still calls it 'Dicentra' in its 18th edition published in 2008, so I'll stick with that. That Lampothingy isn't even listed as a synonym. I guess the botanical names aren't really the same all over the world.
sabuj said…
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