Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Bloodroot - Sanguinaria canadensis
Bloodroot is impossible to misidentify. In late winter, its single palmate leaf emerges with its deeply dissected lobes and noticeable veins. This leaf is often held nearly vertical to the ground and on a relatively long petiole; up to 6 inches. Over time, plants sucker and produce clusters.
Flowering occurs in late February through March in its Florida range. The solitary bloom may stand 6-12 inches above the ground. The six, crystalline white petals surround the bright yellow reproductive parts; the flowers are about 6 inches across and quite beautiful. The flowers are primarily pollinated by bees and pollinated flowers form an elliptical seed capsule that ripens by April.
Bloodroot is so named because the stems and roots "bleed" a bright red juice when cut. This was used by Native Americans to dye clothes, skin, and pottery. The plant was also used in herbal medicine and as an insect repellent. The alkaloid compound, sanguinarine, is still commercially used in some toothpastes and mouthwashes to control plaque, however, this compound is also toxic and bloodroot should never be ingested.
Bloodroot is one of the sure signs of spring and makes a wonderful addition to a mixed wildflower meadow beneath a deciduous forest canopy. It will not prosper in evergreen shade or in infertile sandy soils, not enriched by a good surface cover of decomposing leaf litter. Because of its great beauty, it is propagated by several native plant growers in north Florida. Do not attempt this plant in Florida using plants from further north. We have grown it in our central Florida landscape by putting it in large pots with fertile potting soil. It has not survived being grown in our native sandy soil. If you attempt it, try it with meadow rue, blue woodland phlox, trilliums, and rain lilies.