Exploring The Last Green Valley: Nature’s Early Bloomer: Discovering Bloodroot

Exploring The Last Green Valley: Nature’s Early Bloomer: Discovering Bloodroot

One of our Last Green Valley members will occasionally stop by our office to visit, find out what’s new and share information. She has wonderful woods and gardens around her house in Killingly and enjoys sharing her knowledge about wild plants with friends.

She successfully grows and propagates wild plants on her land, and one day she asked me if I knew about bloodroot. While I had seen it from time-to-time in my woods rambles, I really didn’t know much about it. Bloodroot is blooming now, so she invited me over to learn more about this interesting and beautiful wildflower.

I arrived at her house on a warm, sunny afternoon and was amazed to see hundreds of beautiful, white blooming bloodroot plants in front of her house. Over the years she has cultivated beds of wildflowers that enjoy shady spots under the trees. The bloodroot was in full bloom, bluebells were blooming, too, and later this season, cardinal flowers will show their deep crimson red flowers.

We walked around her gardens as she told me about her experience with bloodroot, relating how she had found it on her property and propagated such a wonderful collection year-by-year.

I decided to research more about this beautiful wildflower and I am happy share the information with you today.

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is native to eastern North America from Nova Scotia south to Florida and west to the Great Lakes. It gets its name from the dark orange and red sap found in the stems and roots, which resembles blood. The colored juice from the stems can be used to make red, pink and orange dyes and was used by Native Americans for that purpose.

Bloodroot plants are early spring bloomers and can be found growing wild in moist wooded areas with light “dappled” sunlight. They produce a single beautiful white flower 1½ inches in diameter on a single stem up to 8 inches tall. The white flowers have 8 to 12 petals, though I recall only seeing plants with 8 petals at my friend’s house.

The bloodroot stem has a single leaf tightly rolled around the large flower bud. When unfurled, the light green leaf is 4 to 8 inches wide and rounded in shape. The flower has numerous yellow stamens. After opening in early spring, it lasts only a few days. The foliage will remain until the entire plant disappears in late summer.

The sap from the bloodroot can be toxic to skin and my friend cautioned me to wear gloves if I become interested in propagating it in my gardens. Over the years, remedies have been developed using bloodroot for skin ailments such as wart removal; however, from what I was able to research, one should use great caution when considering bloodroot as a medicinal plant.

If you’re looking for an interesting wildflower for your garden, you might consider the beautiful white flowering bloodroot. There are some online sources available for plants or seeds, but I suggest you first contact a nursery in your area to see if they have it for sale.

We live in a beautiful region full of natural woodland wonders, from the tallest oaks to the diminutive bloodroot. I hope you’ll join me in enjoying it, caring for it, and passing it on.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for 35 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org.

The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the preceding article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.