Sanguinaria canadensis L. - Bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis plant

Family - Papaveraceae

Stems - Thick subterranean rhizome, branching, with blood red sap. Roots fibrous to slightly thickened.

Leaves - Leaves produced from each end of the rhizome. At anthesis the leaves are typically shorter than the pedicel of the flower. Petiole elongating to +/-17cm long, glabrous. Blades lobed or not, glaucous abaxially, dull green adaxially, glabrous, +12cm broad, 10cm long.

Sanguinaria canadensis leafLeaf at anthesis.

Sanguinaria canadensis leaf

Inflorescence - Single flower produced just before or with the new seasons leaf. Peduncle to +11cm long in flower, glabrous, expanding in fruit to +15cm long, typically exserted from between the cordate base of the leaf.

Flowers - Petals typically 8 (4 being slightly larger then the others), white, oblanceolate to narrowly elliptic, glabrous, entire, to 3cm long, -1cm broad. Stamens many. Filaments 5-10mm long. Anthers yellow, 2-2.5mm long. Style very short (1mm long). Stigma 2-lobed. Capsules to +3cm long, 1cm in diameter, glabrous, beaked, unilocular. Placentation parietal. Seeds keeled, 10-15 per capsule.

Sanguinaria canadensis flowerFlower.

Sanguinaria canadensis flowerAgain.

Sanguinaria canadensis fruitDeveloping fruit.

Sanguinaria canadensis flowerDouble flower.

Flowering - March - April.

Habitat - Base of bluffs, ravines, rich or rocky woods, bottoms, limestone outcrops.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This is one the most popular and easily recognizable wildflowers in North America. It can be found throughout Missouri. The plant is most often seen in fruit rather than in flower because the striking flowers are very short lived. The fruits develop quickly after the flowers have wilted.
The rhizome of this species bleeds a red sap when injured, hence the common name of the plant, "Bloodroot." Licking the root causes an instant burning sensation on the tounge and lips. Some people have experienced tunnel vision from licking the root a bit too much.
This species was used widely by natives to treat a variety of ailments. Juice from the rhizome was used as an appetite stimulant and a sedative. A tea from the root was used to treat rheumatism, asthma, fevers, and other bronchial ailments. Many other modern remedies have been made from the plant also, this has led to its decline in areas where plant hunters seek to collect wild plants for profit. Please do not pick this species from the wild. It will grow from seed.
The species contains the alkaloid sanguinarine which has shown antiseptic, anticancer, and anesthetic properties. It is used in mouthwash and toothpaste as an plaque inhibitor.

Photographs taken in Vale, NC., 3-15-03, in Umstead State Park, NC., 3-23-03, and at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Boone County, MO., 3-20-04.


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