BloodrootBotanical name: Sanguinaria...

PLANT NOTEBOOK

March 16, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher

Bloodroot

Botanical name: Sanguinaria canadensis

Pronunciation: Sang-gwin-Ay-ria

Family: Papaveraceae (Poppy)

Common name: Bloodroot

Origin: Eastern North America

Class: Hardy perennial wildflower

Display period: March, April

Height: 6 to 9 inches

Environment: Woodland or partial shade The blood-red juice released by its roots explains how a plant whose beautiful, white, waxy blossoms -- which has been called the fairest of wildflowers -- acquired its name.

The genus designation, Sanguinaria, comes from the Latin word for blood. Canadensis, the species name, refers to the plant's origination in Canada and North America. The Indians used the colorant from the plant as war paint and a dye.

An independent sort of plant, bloodroot entered my garden on its own and cagily established itself in the shelter of a shrub but close enough to a path I regularly traveled so I'd be sure to discover it. Where it came from has remained a mystery, although it's not unusual for seeds to be blown in by wind or dropped by birds.

Seed, however, is not the most reliable method of starting bloodroot. Seed is hard to germinate, and survival of the little plantlets can be a touch-and-go proposition. Success is more assured with tubers (often sold by nurseries already potted) set with their tops sunk half an inch below the ground.

Given a home in moisture-retaining but not soggy or heavy soil, overhung with some shade and left undisturbed, plants should last for years and multiply. Should they push above the soil surface, a half-inch cover of leaf-mold or compost should protect them from freezing.

A natural or informal setting suits the bloodroot's character best. Against a neutral backdrop of greenery and earth, the tulip-like flowers rising on reddish bare stems and accented by deeply scalloped ornamental blue-green foliage (which, incidentally, lasts far longer than the fragile and fleeting blossoms) look almost regal.

To move or divide established plants, wait until fall. Plants acquired new may be set out in the spring as well.

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