You are here

National Park Mystery Plant 17 Revealed

Congratulations to winner Dan Martin.

To figure out the identity of national park mystery plant 17 you needed to know how to makes sense of these four clues:

Ants in your pants will make you dance.

Frozen Dead Guy Days is held each March in Nederland, Colorado.

I lost mine, and that gives you a golden opportunity.

Vincent van Gogh was one.

The answer to this mystery plant puzzler is Dutchman's breeches, and here is how you derive it from the clues.

Famous post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh was a Dutchman.

Nederland is the Dutch name for the Kingdom of the Netherlands (short name Netherlands; aka Holland).

The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is the most famous lost mine in America. (Searchers have a golden opportunity to become wealthy by rediscovering the mine.)

As explained below, the seeds of the Dutchman's breeches are dispersed by ants. Breeches are pants that extend from the waist to just below the knees.

BTW, the Bredo Morstoel mentioned in the puzzler photo caption yesterday is the Frozen Dead Guy.

An Interesting Plant

Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), a member of the Fumariaceae family and a relative of the bleeding heart, is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant that grows primarily in eastern North America. Variously known as soldier cap, monks head, kitten breeches, bachelors breeches, and little boys breeches (to name just a few of its colloquial names), it prefers fertile soils in forested and rocky slope habitat within a zone extending from southeastern Canada to as far south as Georgia and as far west as some better-watered areas of the eastern Great Plains. An outlier population exists in the Columbia River Basin of the Pacific Northwest.

Dutchman's breeches grows in many National Park System units. If you know where and how to look, you can find this plant in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, to name just a few.

This plant's odd name derives from the fact that its small flowers resemble inverted pantaloons hung out to dry. Each of the white to pinkish flowers (typically four to ten on a stalk) that appears during the spring bloom has a yellow line at the bottom that is said to represent the belt of the pantaloons.

The Dutchman's breeches plant grows from a bulb-like root, but produces seeds that are dispersed by ants (a process called myrmecochory). Ants carry off the seeds and stash them in their underground nests because each seed has a fleshy organ (the elaisome) containing a substance that many ant species love to eat. After the ants consume the elaisome, the seeds are left to germinate in soil enriched by ant nest debris.

This is a plant that you want to treat with a bit of caution. Though it is not especially dangerous, and can be used for various folk medicinal purposes, it does cause contact dermatitis in some people and contains alkaloids that can affect brain and heart functions.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide