Always amazed by the structure of seeds and seed pods while we are out collecting. Blooms may be less frequent now but we are blessed with all the seed diversity in the gardens. Nature’s well thought out arrangement with regard to seeds, pods, and dispersal. Pretty cool, heh?
Bloodroot ( Sanginaria canadensis) is native to most of the eastern US. It prefers undisturbed wooded areas that are moist to dry, never wet, in part to full shade. Its ability to grow in dryer areas and compete with tree roots makes it a good choice in the landscape when dealing with maples and other trees that can take over a garden with their own roots. In early spring the leaves emerge clasping the flower stalk which soon opens to a white flower with a yellow center. As the flower opens, the leaves, that can be 6” across, open as well. The leaves are a light green to almost glaucous green, formed in a kidney shape that often have interesting indentions along the margin. The bloom period is short, with the flowers falling off within a couple of days of being fertilized. The double form, Sanguinaria canadensis f. ‘Multiplex’ blooms much longer since it is basically sterile and does not set seed. Although bloom time is short, a patch of bloodroot in full flower is a very impressive sight. We have both forms growing here at the nursery, and it just wouldn’t be spring without them. If you plant it, you might find that it pops up in areas away from the original plants. This is due to ants that harvest the seed for the fleshy elaiosome that is attached to it. The ants can then carry the seed a considerable distance away from the original plant. The elaiosome, which they eat, is high in lipids and proteins. The seeds are discarded by the ants, and then germinate, spreading the plant around the garden or woodland. Seeds of certain species of plants produce elaiosome specifically to attract ants and other insects to encourage seed dispersal. While we enjoy the beauty of our plants, this arrangement is a design we find both intriguing and amazing.
Bloodroot gets its name from the color of the sap that flows from the root, should it be broken or scraped. The sap is poisonous and can be a skin irritant to some people. It was used by Native Americans as a red dye and also for some medicinal uses (however, ingestion of the plant is not recommended). Further research will give you a lot of information on both the historical, medicinal, and present uses of bloodroot.
Here at Fernwood we enjoy bloodroots early bloom and sharp white flowers that really stand out when the gardens are just getting going. We grow both single and double bloodroot, but only have Sanguinaria canadensis for sale at the moment. Patches of bloodroot are an attractive addition to the woodland landscape and remember to be thankful for those helpful and industrious ants!