Random Plant: Bloodroot

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, Papaveraceae) photographed 04/15/2011 near Blissfield Michigan.

Today I noticed my first bloodroot plants (Sanguinaria canadensis, Papaveraceae) of the season growing in a local hardwood forest.  Each plant has a single leaf and a single flower, and in mid-April they’re just starting to open up.  By early May these short-lived spring ephemerals will be gone.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, Papaveraceae) photographed 04/18/2009 near Blissfield Michigan.

Bloodroot gets its name from the red sap stored in its rhizomes.  These underground perennating organs store carbohydrates and water that fuel the above-ground growth.  Rhizomes can spread out over an area and give rise to colonies of plants.  Because of this, plants are often found clustered together.  The sap in the rhizomes contains the toxin sanguinarine that is known to destroy animal cells.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis, Papaveraceae) photographed 04/15/2011 near Blissfield Michigan.

Pollinators include bees and flies, while seed dispersion is conducted primarily by ants.  Bloodroot seeds have protein-rich structures known as elaiosomes attached to them.  Ants bring the seeds to their nests and larvae eat the elaisosomes, leaving the seeds to germinate.


About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Ecology, Random Plant and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Random Plant: Bloodroot

  1. Pingback: Random Plant: Virginia spring beauty | The Life of Your Time

  2. neihtn2012 says:

    Interesting plant: couldn’t it be used in some cancer treatment?


  3. Jeremy Sell says:

    It may have potential as a cancer treatment. Traditional treatments already exist, but typically create more problems than they solve. Sanguinarine can be harmful when used recklessly.


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