Lookee-likees: the flowers are reminiscent of Fumitories such as Purple Ramping-Fumitory, (Fumaria purpurea) less so of Milkworts such as Common Milkwort (Polygala vulgaris) (which lack spurs, but do have a similar flattened bisymmetric shape). In fact, taxonomists used to think that Dicentra species belonged in the Fumariaceae family (Fumitory), so your Author is pleased to have looked in that family first for a match, but failed (had he looked in an older book he would have succeeded).
Uniquely identifiable characteristics
Distinguishing Feature : close inspection reveals that there are two short, rounded, flattened spurs at the rear of each flower
No relation to :
Love-lies-Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) [a plant belonging to the differing Pigweed Family, Amaranthaceae nor with
Blood-drop Emlets (Mimulus luteus), a Monkeyflower nor with Bloody Crane's-bill (Geranium sanguineum), a member of the Geranium Family.
The Genus Dicentra used to belong to the Fumariaceae (Fumitory) Family but has since been re-assigned to the Papaveraceae (Poppy Family). Also, the common name 'Bleeding Heart' now refers to two very similar plants, one in the Dicentra genus (which contains two plants and a hybrid) and the other in the Lamprocapnos genus (which contains only one plant). It is expected that Taxonomists will rationalise the genus name for both of these plants to either one or the other (Lamprocapnos or Dicentra)
There is more than one Cultivar assigned the designation 'Bleeding Heart'. The one shown here is Dicentra formosa (with both basal leaves and leaves on stems), the other being Dicentra spectrabilis, the more garden plant of Dicentra species. The more common garden variety of Bleeding Heart is called
Asian Bleeding-heart (Dicentra spectabilis).
In the U.K. it is more likely to be found growing in a garden than growing wild beside a stream.
Contact with the plant by the skin can cause an allergic skin reaction with sensitive individuals.
[Morphine for comparison only, Asian Bleeding-Heart contains none].
Bleeding-Heart is poisonous, containing the isoquinoline alkaloids Protopine, Sanguinarine, Chelerythrine as well as apomorphine and
ProtoBerberine alkaloids. Ingestion of the plant is dangerous; with sedative, spasmolytic and narcotic properties, which can lead to dizziness, gastro-intestinal, kidney disturbances and heart arrhythmia.
Apomorphine has many chemical differences from Morphine, but is so named because it is the product of boiling morphine in concentrated acid, hardly a natural occurrence. Before Viagra came upon the scene, it was once used for erectile dysfunction. It is used to treat Parkinsons disease and in treating heroin addiction. An unstable colourless liquid itself, decomposing in 24 hours, it stains green on contact.
Bleeding-Heart does not contain Heroin, which is just shown here to illustrate the similarity between itself and that of Morphine. Two acetyl groups have replaced the two hydroxyl radicals, and the compound is zwitterionic, having a positive charge on the now tetra-valent nitrogen atom. Heroin does not, as far as is known, occur naturally; it is entirely synthetic. Needless to say, it is deadly poisonous.
This plant does not appear in that thick heavy botanical book commonly referred to as 'Stace 3' by Prof. Clive Stace but it does appear in the BSBI database.