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Posts tagged “Sanguinarea canadensis

Bloodroot In Flower

One of our earliest spring ephemerals, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), a member of the Poppy family, greets the longer, warming days by having its short-lived flower emerge from within its protective leaf and spread its white petals wide open on sunny days. (The flower only opens on days when the temperature reaches 46 degrees, as that’s when pollinators are active.)

To encourage cross-pollination, when the flower opens it is in the female stage, relying on pollinators covered in pollen to land and drop pollen to the receptive stigma. Within a few hours of opening the stamens begin to release pollen. The flower will open for up to three days or until cross-pollination has occurred. Once pollination has taken place the flower begins to drop its petals.

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Bloodroot Seeds and Myrmecochory

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Bloodroot seeds, as well as the seeds of as many as 5% of flowering plants, have a fatty white appendage called an elaiosome attached to them which ants are very fond of.  This adaptation benefits both the ants as well as the plant.  The ants collect the seeds and take them down into their tunnels where they feed the elaiosomes to their larvae. The actual seeds are discarded underground, often in with ant compost, where their chances of germinating are enhanced. The dispersal of seeds by ants is referred to as myrmecochory. As the photographs indicate, ants don’t always wait until the seeds have dropped out of the seed pod to collect them.


All members of the Poppy family have milky or colored sap, and Bloodroot (Sanguinarea canadensis) is no exception.  Its sap is as red as its petals are white, and was used as a source of dye by Native Americans (for clothing and baskets) as well as for paint and as an insect repellent.  The individual flower of Bloodroot  lasts only two days, but on these two days, it reigns supreme amongst the early ephemerals.