Spring Wildflowers: Blood Root

Blood root, Sanguinaria canadensis

One of the early wildflowers to emerge in the woodlands on Washington Island is the star-like blooms of the Blood root. This single flower is surrounded with a single lobed leaf which is wrapped around the bud and unfolds as the flower blooms. The white waxy flower consists of eight to twelve petals and opens to the sun and closes at night and is about six to seven inches tall.

Sanguinaria canadensis, Blood root

(image credit: American Medical Botany by James Bigelow)

The unique name comes from it's red sap in the stem and rhizome root which was used for medicinal purposes and dye by Native Americans. Be aware, it's toxic properties are harmful to the skin.

After the flower dies, the interesting scalloped leaf continues to grow and changes from a silver green to a blue green and blends into the summer woodland carpet.


(photo credit: Courtney Cauldwell)

Interesting Facts about the Blood root:

- The Blood root is a member of the Poppy family.

- Ants are attracted to the plant's seeds which assists in propagation, while flies and bees are busy with pollination.

- The simplicity and beauty of this flower has likened it to be called the Little Northern Lotus.

Join us next for the Trillium.

Note: The botanical drawing is from the rare book, American Medical Botany by James Bigelow from the collection of the late Chester Thordarson of Rock Island which is now in the library of the University of Wisconsin.