Species of the Month, 03/14: Bloodroot

This is the third post in our "Species of the Month" series, written by Park Ecologist Peter VanLinn. It's one of several 2014 initiatives meant to share knowledge we have about the Park for those who love it.

This month's selection, Bloodroot, is a small woodland flower that blooms for only one to two days. During the past two years in Forest Park, the bloom has come at the exact date of the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). We may not see that kind of constancy this year with the cooler weather, but visitors will want to keep their eyes peeled as temperatures slowly start to warm up, because this is one of the first, and quickest, blooms of the year.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Attributes and Features: Bloodroot is a stemless and rhizomatous Missouri native which blooms in early spring in rich wooded areas. Each flower emerges wrapped in one palmate, deeply-scalloped leaf. This plant has one flower and one leaf per stalk. Leaves will continue to persist and grow after flower has faded. Flower commonly blooms for only one or two days. All parts of the plant exude a reddish-orange sap when cut, giving the plant its common name.


  • Leaves: Singlar, palmate, deeply-scalloped, 4 -6 inches wide, grayish-green in color
  • Stem: Stemless, rhizomatous, forming single stalk for each leaf/flower
  • Flowers: Solitary, singular, 8 – 16 petals of white with yellow center stamens
  • Fruits: Sept.-Oct.; a two-part capsule pointed on both ends with a row of seeds in each half
  • Seeds: Small, round, reddish to dark brown, with attached jelly-like elaiosome, 10 – 15 per capsule
  • Scientific Name: Sanguinaria canadensis
  • Common Name: Bloodroot
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Species Family: Papaveraceae
  • Leaf: Singular palmate, deeply-scalloped, grayish-green basal leaf
  • Flower: Solitary, 8 – 16 petals
  • Bloom Color: White with numerous yellow center stamens
  • Bloom Time: March – April
  • Fruit Color: Greenish seed capsules, mature to light brown
  • Height: 6” – 10”
  • Spread: 4” – 6”
  • Exposure: Part to full shade
  • Moisture: Medium
  • Soil & Climate: Average, medium, well-drained, drought-tolerant
  • Hardiness Zone: 3 to 8    

Ecosystem connections: Native Range – Eastern United States, statewide in Missouri except NE Missouri.

Bloodroot uses the strategy of myrmecochory to propagate seeds. Ants are attracted to the elaiosome, a white, jelly like sack attached to each seed that is filled with nutrients to be eaten by ants. Ants will carry the seed to a nest, eat the elaiosome, and discard the seed with the rest of their nest debris. This process allows the seeds to be dispersed and covered for germination.

Culture: Bloodroot was used by Native Americans to make dye using the sap. Some people also believe the rootstock has antiseptic and emetic properties.

Habitat and conservation: Bloodroot grows in rich wooded slopes and valleys.

Note: Information for this post was gathered from the Missouri Department of Conservation website (online field guide) and the Missouri Botanical Garden website (online plantfinder).