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Bloodroot

This dear wildflower is a national treasure and scarce in the wild, so always get plants from a friend’s home garden...if you are fortunate enough to do so.

bloodroot

Photo: Shawn.caza (Wikimedia Commons)

Close up of a bloodroot flower, (Sanguinaria canadensis).

Bloodroot is a much loved wildflower that returns year after year, and though it looks fragile, it is quite sturdy once it is established in a spot it likes.

It pushes up from the soil in early spring, and each tightly rolled leaf contains a flower bud. Once it has emerged, the leaf unrolls and the flower stem is elevated above the leaf and then the bloom opens.

Bloodroot’s blue/green leaves are rounded in shape and have shallow lobes, but after the white blooms open, the leaves expand until they are 8 to 10 inches wide.

It is quite a miraculous little plant and much treasured by gardeners and wildflower enthusiasts. The botanical name is Sanguinaria Canadensis, and it is native to North America. (The common name is because the horizontal rhizome from which it grows and the stems produce reddish sap.)

Bloodroot has been used for centuries as a remedy for coughs.

The flowers are usually single and do not last long, and the leaves have disappeared by midsummer. The double bloodroot varieties that have been developed, such as ‘Multiplex’, bloom a little later than the original single wildflower.

Plants are available from native plant nurseries, and since this is a national treasure and scarce in the wild, always buy them or get them from a friend’s home garden if you are fortunate to know a gardener who has them.

They like partial shade and rich moist soil with humus. Never pick these flowers, as they quickly wilt and are best enjoyed in situ. They range from the Maritime Provinces to Manitoba in Canada, and through Kentucky, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, and New York and south into Texas and Florida. Depending on the region and the weather, they bloom in April or May.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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