ON APRIL FOOL’S DAY, RIWPS Seed Starter Sandra Thompson writes:
It must be spring! Look what I woke up to this morning. Blood-root. With more to come, by the look at all those buds. Ever wonder how this lovely early bloomer, (Sanguinaria canadensis) got its common name? Its dark red, knobby, underground stems, or rhizomes are filled with an orange-red sap that inspired its Latin name, Sanguinaria which means bloody. Native bees and flies may cross-pollinate blood-root flowers, if it’s warm enough for insects to be flying around, but if it’s too cold out, blood-root has an insurance policy: self-pollination. What a plant! And you can have one of your own, if you come to RIWPS’s Early Native Plant Sale at the URI Spring Festival at East Farm on Saturday, May 14th.
• Blood-root is native to moist woodlands and floodplains from Nova Scotia to Florida and Texas. A member of the poppy family, its flowers last only a few days, but its rounded notched leaves make a beautiful groundcover, and can be combined with native ginger, trillium, columbine and ferns.
• The Eastern woodland herb was used extensively by Native Americans to treat coughs and croup, to heal sores and ulcers. Its bitter compounds made a powerful emetic. The root juice was also used as a red dye and face paint. Blood-root’s common name in the South – coon root – may have been a corruption of the Indian name, puccoon.
• Blood-root is among many woodland wildflowers with fleshy elaisomes attached to the seeds, which are rich in lipids and proteins. Ants carry these seeds back to their nests, where they eat the nutritious elaisomes and toss the seeds on a waste pile that provides the perfect conditions for germination! It’s one of the many examples in which an insect species is fed by a plant, which in turn spreads a bit farther into the woods.
Go Botany – Sanguinaria canadensis