Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bloodroot - Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) occurs throughout the eastern half of North America, as far north as the southern tiers of Canadian provinces, but it reaches its southern limit in Florida.  Here, it is reported only from eight counties in the central Panhandle, largely in the understory of deciduous hardwood hammocks with relatively rich forest soil.  This is a classic perennial spring ephemeral wildflower - making its appearance in early spring before the canopy closes over, setting seed, and disappearing by early summer.
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.

1 comment:

  1. I've enjoyed looking at your site to see native N. Fl flowers. The photos are very clear.
    We have a profusion of bloodroot on our acre just outside Tallahassee. For many years, some acres of our community (only the west side) have had this wonderful setting for bloodroot, violets, Solomon's seal, and green dragon. We are working hard on the invasive coral ardecia and the newer invasion of border grass. These plants have decreased the bloodroot. We've planted maidenhair fern and trillium. Alice Morrill Bejnar, Grassroots Community


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