Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Would A Haunted Garden Be

Without Bloodroot?  Sanguinaria Canadensis, or what is commonly known as Bloodroot, or Bloodwort, or Red Puccoon Root, is a native springtime bloom that loves the mottled sun of canopy trees, when they are just beginning to leaf out.

It is native to the eastern portion of N. America, from up in Canada, down into Florida, but I'm finding various sub-species in catalogs selling the rhizomes, and from native plant nurseries selling potted plants, that are adaptable to a variety of micro-climates. Please do not every remove these from the wild. It is not only unethical, but the plant is likely to not survive.

Bloodroot is a perennial, meaning that it returns each year. Each delicate little plant produces a charming white flower with large petals, and a sunny yellow fluffy looking center. They can begin blooming as early as March in the warmer climates, and are usually through with their show by the end of May, going completely dormant by late Summer.

They spread by rhizomes, and can create large colonies over a span of a few years. It is a delight to find these blooms coming up through leaf litter when the days are hinting of Spring. They also produce long green seed pods, with black to reddish seeds inside, that insects covet.

You can find them growing in a multitude of habitats, from moist to dry woods, or along streams, and bordering ponds. They do prefer the ancient layered, littered floor of a woodland, or enhanced garden bed, rather than a stark, cleared piece of ground.

Bloodroot got it's name because of the deep orange to red sap that is stored in the stem and down into the rhizome. It is wise to wear garden gloves when handling this plant, because the sap is toxic to a human's skin.  It produces the toxin sanguinarine, which when coming in contact with skin cells, may destroy tissue, and lead to the formation of open sores, or large scabs.

I still see ads for Bloodroot paste as an alternative treatment of some kinds of skin cancers, but it is extremely dangerous to use, and can wind up serious disfiguring of the skin, while not curing anything.  And what is even scarier, is that for a time, just a few years ago, certain manufacturer's were using sanguinarine in their toothpastes and mouth rinses, which can cause leukoplatia, known as oral lesions.  If you have any concerns over the products that you use, I would suggest googling for more information.

Back on the plus side, it was used by the Native People as a dye, producing a wonder earthy red color. Also, the bees and other beneficial pollinators love it. It is one of their first food sources of the growing season.

So please don't let the ideas of unscrupulous people keep you from growing this delightful little bloom. I've personally had bloodroot for years, and it remains one of the favorites in my Spring garden. I'm sure that you would enjoy growing it too!


  1. I have a few of these growing in my shade garden. they are quite difficult to divide and transplant. But they are so gorgeous when in bloom!

  2. I don't have any here yet. I did manage to transplant them at our old home. You have to dig up a large chunk of earth around them. Here's a little folklore I found. The root can be used to atract love. Also to protect against negative vibes. I don't recommend using it though it is threatened in some parts of the US.

  3. I don't have any of these. How lovely, definately going to check it out. Thanks for the info.


  4. Whoa. I absolutely LOVE you blog!!! We have bloodroot that grows around here in Tennessee and a friend of mine used it to dye some of her wool. It was GORGEOUS! I do so love wildflowers!