Bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis

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Photo of bloodroot plant with flower
Bloodroot’s pure white petals are even more remarkable given the plant’s bright red sap.
Other Common Name
Red Puccoon
Family

Papaveraceae (poppies)

Description

A stemless plant consisting of a fleshy, horizontal, fingerlike tuber with reddish-orange juice that sends up a flower stalk wrapped by a single palmate, deeply scalloped, grayish-green basal leaf. The leaf unfurls when the solitary flower blooms. After the flower fades, the leaves continue growing (to 8 inches wide) until midsummer, when the plant goes dormant. Blooms March–April. Flowers open before or just as the leaves start to unfurl. As the flower opens, 2 sepals fall off, and 8–16 white petals of uneven size and length descend to a horizontal position, forming a flower that grows to 1¼ inch across, with many yellow stamens. Because petals are of uneven length, one often finds “square” flowers. Each flower lasts only one or two days. Fruits are about 1 inch long, borne upright, smooth, often with a thin whitish waxy coating. On maturity these split open lengthwise from the base into 2 parts.

Size

Height: to about 9 inches.

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Photo of a bloodroot flower, closeup of center showing yellow stamens
Bloodroot (Flower)
Bloodroot flowers open before or just as the leaves start to unfurl. Each flower lasts only one or two days.

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Photo of a bloodroot colony showing many leaves.
Bloodroot Colony
Bloodroot is a perennial plant that grows from thick, rootlike rhizomes. It often grows in colonies.

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Photo of bloodroot fruit, closeup.
Bloodroot Fruit
Bloodroot fruits are about 1 inch long, borne upright, smooth, often with a thin whitish waxy coating.

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Photo of a bloodroot fruit and leaf.
Bloodroot Leaf and Fruit
Bloodroot leaves are distinctive. By midsummer, they wither and the plant goes dormant.

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Photo of a cut bloodroot stem leaking orangish sap onto a person's finger.
Bloodroot Sap
Bloodroot sap can irritate the skin and was historically used to treat warts and skin cancers.

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Photo of bloodroot flowers, leaves, and stems
Bloodroot
Bloodroot is a familiar early spring woodland wildflower.
Habitat and conservation

Grows on rich, wooded slopes and valleys.

image of Bloodroot Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide, except for northeastern Missouri and Mississippi Lowlands.

Status

Common forest wildflower.

Human connections

Bloodroot is a favorite garden plant, but make sure you purchase plants grown by respectable nurseries that propagate plants without harming wild populations. In the past, Native Americans used the sap for dyes, and the rootstock has been used medicinally for its antiseptic and emetic properties.

Ecosystem connections

Even humble plants that are dormant most of the year contribute to the complexity of the ecosystem, binding the soil with their rootstocks, providing pollen during their blooming time, and supplying herbivores with nourishment.