The Waterman and Hill-Traveller's Companion, a Natural Events Almanac
February
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Bloodroot blossom
Photo by Jim Jung. All rights reserved.

28 - Bloodroot Begins to Bloom

Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot, a member of the Poppy Family, is one of the earliest blooming spring wild flowers in our area. The flowers have a variable number of petals that can range from seven to as many as fifteen. The flower buds rise clasped in the gray-green leaves and bloom before the leaves have fully unfurled. Individual flowers appear for just one day and then drop their petals. Bloodroot, along with Toothwort, Trout Lily and Spring Beauty, are important sources of pollen and nectar for early rising bumblebees and other insects and tide them through the early parts of spring until the less hardy (and adventurous) species begin to bloom.

Named for the red sap in their orange roots Bloodroot was used as a body paint by Indian tribes along the east coast of the United States at the time of first contact, and also as a dye for basket materials. The latter use continues among the Cherokee, who call it "puccon." Indian tribes used it medicinally as a painkiller (it's related to the opium poppy) and early settlers did the same. However, owing to toxins in the plant that cause liver and brain damage this practice was discontinued. Modern uses for some of the chemical compounds this plant contains include its use in toothpaste where it has been found to dissolve plaque and strengthen gums.

Bloodroot Clulmp
Photo by Jim Jung. All rights reserved.

Bloodroot grows well in the home shade garden and can be easily propagated by either root division or seed.



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The information on this page is tailored to Southern Illinois, Southwest Indiana, Western Kentucky, and Southeast Missouri

Copyright © 2006 Jim Jung