Squirrel Corn – Dicentra canadensis

Squirrel Corn – Dicentra canadensis, photo by Steven Foster

Squirrel Corn – Dicentra canadensis, photo by Steven Foster

Overall At-Risk Score: 51

Latin name:

Dicentra canadensis

Common name:

Squirrel corn. Dicentra canadensis is sometimes confused with Dicentra eximia, leading it to be known by D. eximia’s common name of Turkey Corn.


Papaveraceae (Poppy family)

Fumarioideae (Subfamily; previously called Fumariaceae, the fumitory family)




Squirrel Corn seeds grow inside of pods that form inside the remains of withered flowers. It is also capable of clonal reproduction, and studies have shown that it has a preference for asexual reproduction on the northern edges of its typical geographic range, due in part to the environment of the region limiting sexual reproduction.

Geographic region:

Squirrel Corn is found in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. It is also found in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.


Squirrel Corn lives primarily in deciduous woods or among rock outcrops. It grows best in loam-rich soils.

Vulnerability of Habitat/Changes of Habitat Quality and Availability:

The Squirrel Corn’s loss of habitat due to an increase in the amount of developed land in its geographic range is one of the primary concerns when it comes to the health of the species. Livestock grazing and timber farming in the regions that remained relatively untouched after are a consistent issue.

Another, potentially even more detrimental issue is the increasing number of invasive plants taking over deciduous forests, such as Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

Status of Endangered/Threatened (by state):

Dicentra canadensis is listed as “Threatened” in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and being of “Special Concern” in Minnesota. It is “Endangered” in New Jersey.

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

It has been suggested that all parts of the Squirrel Corn could be useful in the treatment of various chronic skin conditions, as well as to lessen menstrual pain. It was used historically as a tonic to treat syphilis and tuberculosis.

Please keep in mind that Squirrel Corn is also considered poisonous and can cause harm if too much is ingested.


There is actually little demand for Squirrel Corn beyond being a native lookalike for Bleeding Heart plants (Lamprocapnos spectabilis). Its primary threat from a conservation standpoint is the damage being done to its native habitat, rather than wild harvesting.

Recommendations for industrial and home use:

If you live in one of the states that Squirrel Corn is native to, consider buying some seedlings and making them a charming addition to your shade garden.


  • Dorken, M., & Eckert, C. (2001). Severely Reduced Sexual Reproduction in Northern Populations of a Clonal Plant, Decodon verticillatus (Lythraceae). Journal of Ecology, 89(3), 339-350. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3072279
  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1997. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 3. New York and Oxford.
  • Grieve, M. (1931). A modern herbal; the medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation and folk-lore of herbs, grasses, fungi, shrubs, & trees with all their modern scientific uses (H. Leyel, Ed.). New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co.
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (n.d.). Species profile – Minnesota DNR. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/rsg/profile.html?action=elementDetail&selectedElement=PDFUM04010
  • United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Plants Profile for Dicentra canadensis (squirrel corn). Retrieved from https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=DICA

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