Sanguinaria canadensis L.
Sanguinaria canadensis L. var. rotundifolia (Greene) Fedde
Bloodroot is native to eastern North America. It is named for its bright orange roots, which branch and spread to form large colonies. An yellow-orange dye is made from the roots.
Identification: Plants are 4½-16" (12-40 cm) high. Usually they have a single leaf up to 4½" (12 cm) across, with multiple rounded lobes. They are bumpy on the upper surface, and the undersides are pale bluish green, with large raised veins. Young plants flower while the leaf is still tightly furled around the flower stem, like a sheath, even though the leaf is on its own stem. Flowers are white with a yellow center, with 8-15 petals, 6-10" (15-25 cm) above the ground, appearing from March to May. (Some cultivated varieties have doubled flowers, one right on top of the other.) The petals are variable, sometimes fairly narrow and sharp-tipped; others wider and more rounded. Fruits are shaped like a miniature cone or ear of corn, about ¾-1" (1.9-2.5 cm) long.
Medical: The reddish root sap is poisonous, producing a burning sensation on the tongue. By some accounts it is harmful to the skin. Native peoples used the root sap to treat rheumatism, asthma, fevers, bronchial ailments, and skin conditions. The sap was sometimes used as a face and body paint. The Ponca tribe believed it to be a kind of love potion as well. After applying some sap to their hand, they contrived to hold the hand of a maiden they wished to marry, and after a few days, she would do so. Today’s applications are more prosaic: an bloodroot alkaloid called sanguinarine is used in mouthwash and toothpaste as a plaque inhibitor. We don’t recommend that you use it for anything, though, since the FDA considers it “unsafe.”
Sanguinaria canadensis at Illinois Wildflowers
Sanguinaria canadensis on Missouriplants.com
Sanguinaria canadensis at 2bnTheWild.com
Sanguinaria canadensis on Wikipedia
Sanguinaria canadensis on the USDA Plants Database
Sanguinaria canadensis at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Sanguinaria canadensis at the University of Wisconsin's Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
Sanguinaria canadensis on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site
Sanguinaria canadensis on eFloras
Sanguinaria canadensis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 14 May 2016.