Like Blue Cohosh, Google this plant and you’ll get lots of hits for “remedies” using preparations made from it… and there will be controversy, too! The juice from its roots (rhizomes, if you want to get technical) has been used as a body dye, but the juice can also kill skin tissue. So… I wouldn’t recommend digging it up and painting yourself with it! Even Peterson’s Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs, after listing a host of potential remedies warns, “Toxic! Do not ingest.”
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) flowers come up before or sometimes along with the leaves. The leaves are rolled into a tube that surrounds the flower stem and will slowly unfurl as the flower grows taller. It gets its common name from the blood-red juice that can be squeezed from its underground rhizomes.
I’m working on a new book called Race for the Sun. My intent is to include all the flowers from the guild “Spring Ephemerals” that I find around here… in the order I find them.
I was very sad to learn that I can’t include Bloodroot… if I want to be a purist, that is.
Bloodroot does bloom in early spring before the canopy shades the forest floor… but because the fruit takes until June or so to mature and the leaves may remain until August or September, it does not technically belong in this guild. So sad… It’s such a pretty little thing… (I suppose I could change the focus of my book to any old spring flower in the woods that catches my eye…)
UPDATE 4/23/08: You MUST go see Jeremy Martin’s photo of Bloodroot. It is stunning! Click here.