Species Spotlight – Dicentra eximia

Dicentra eximia

Dicentra eximia, or Appalachian bleedinghearts, is mostly confined to thin, humus-based soil with stable moisture, and cool temperatures.

Dicentra eximia is naturally found in environments with little competition from trees or shrubs, such as on a mountain bald or in the talus at the bottom of a slope in the Virginia/West Virginia Appalachians. Common associates include hay-scented fern, dewberry, Appalachian strawberry, wavy hair-grass, downy alumroot, and poverty oat grass.

The three most critical success factors for growing this plant in a landscape setting seem to be: a) freedom from competition, b) freedom from heavy or saturated soils in winter, and c) consistently moist, but rarely wet, soils in summer.

In West Virginia, fairly large patches (50-100) may be found on North Fork mountain, Seneca Rocks, Dolly Sods, and Spruce Knob.  Each of these areas are known for their high elevation, moist but never dry soils, thin to rocky soils, and little tree/shrub cover.

Documented range from Vermont to Georgia, but effectively the range in which they are stable and flourishing are the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. Scattered populations can also be found along the Tennessee/North Carolina border along rock faces and ridgetops, growing where you might also find Heuchera spp. Pennsylvania populations are waning. New York populations are mostly deemed to be naturalized from garden plantings.

Dicentra eximia is certainly a worthy specimen for the garden or landscape if you can accommodate this plants’ many constraints, mostly through soil manipulation.  Not recommended for most growing conditions in the Piedmont or Coastal Plain.

Easy to grow from seed if soils are kept consistently moist.  Breaking mature rhizomes into 2 or 3 pieces remains probably the most common propagation technique.

Dicentra eximia USDA map.


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