Friday, April 15, 2011

Native Plant of the Week: Bloodroot ~ Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot ~ Sanguinaria canadensis


What isn't there to like about Bloodroot? It's usually the first spring ephemeral to flower in our yard - as early as late March. This year, it just started to flower mid-week.

The beautiful white petals are over 2 inches in width and open fully for the mid-day sun. The number of petals are usually 7 but not uncommonly more than 7. The blooms close up at night as temperatures drop and look like white candles, with the solitary blue-gray leaf wrapped around its stem acting as the candle holder.

As the common name suggests, the rhizome has a red juice when crushed or broken. I saw several small bee species hovering around our bloodroot this week, perhaps making it an important early flowering pollination source.

Long narrow seed pods form and break open revealing a row of seeds with a fleshy elaisome attached. The elaisome attracts ants who then carry off and help disperse the seed. Read an earlier post about this.

We had a small remnant patch of Bloodroot in our yard under large oak trees when we purchased our house. Since removing invasive European Buckthorn and Honeysuckle in this area, the Bloodroot patch has spread quite a bit and new clusters are emerging 10 to 15 feet away from the original bunch.

In our backyard, which was mowed for at least 20 years before we bought our house, Bloodroot is reemerging where we have restored the leaf litter and added native shrubs and trees.

Bloodroot is found in medium to dry woodlands in most of eastern North America, from Saskatchewan south to Texas and eastwards.