Bloodroot: A woodland ephemeral wildflower that bleeds!

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

img_0217Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) is an ephemeral wildflower rich with fact and controversial folklore. Its stark beauty emerges in the fertile and moist woodlands in early spring. Sometimes, Bloodroot forms large colonies and appears to carpet the forest floor.img_0219

Each flower stalk typically emerges wrapped by a deeply-scalloped greenish leaf with an almost blue-hue that unfurls as the flower blooms. The white flowers open in dabbled sunlight but close at night and are very short lived.   During their brief tenure of bloom they add a sparkle of pure white color to last year’s oak leaves and surrounding forest habitat.

img_1383For hundreds of years people have used the underground stem (rhizome) to make medicine.   Reputable medical resources confirm that bloodroot contains chemicals that might help fight bacteria, inflammation, and even plaque.  Extract of bloodroot has been used as an herbal medicine to combat polyps, warts, skin inflammation and even tumors.   Historical records proclaim it will help empty the bowels, reduce tooth pain, lower fevers and reduce vomiting.    A word of caution:  It can cause skin irritation and what may help one person can harm another as is the case in all medicines, be it from nature’s wildland pantry or the scientific laboratory.

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This damaged bloodroot was removed from a construction site and transplanted in adjacent woodlands.

To fully appreciate the name bloodroot, one must look underground even though all parts of the plant exude a bright reddish-orange sap when cut or bruised.  In additional to medical uses, the thick roots have been used by Native Americans for long-lasting dyes. Bloodroot may not be the first spring ephemeral to flower in the woods of Oakland County but for this writer it is the one with the richest and most memorable history!

This damaged bloodroot was removed from a construction site and transplanted in adjacent woodlands.

This damaged bloodroot was removed from a construction site and transplanted in adjacent woodlands.

Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter,  Oakland County Parks Nature Education Writer. www.DestinationOakland.com

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