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Bloodroot community

Common Name: Bloodroot

Botanical Name: Sanguinaria canadensis


NARRATOR: Ethnobotanist Justin Nolan describes the rare native Bloodroot plant, and discuss with some of the plants uses in traditional Cherokee basketry and medicine.

JUSTIN NOLAN: Sanguinaria canadensis. Bloodroot is a fascinating member of the poppy family, a medium-sized and widely distributed texana of flowering plants. Bloodroot is often among the earliest to bloom in the Ozark Springwoods, and is distinguishable by eight to ten delicate white petals. Bloodroot prefers damp, sunny soils, and as its name implies, its shallow roots are crimson or scarlet orange in color, and produce bright red and poisonous juice with some medicinal properties and applications.

One should be aware that rendering any potentially powerful root medicine should be approached with extreme caution. Cherokees render a lovely natural dye from Bloodroot to color dried river cane strips, used in traditional basketry construction. Cherokees also produce what’s known as Red Root medicine, which has many implications and applications, depending on the ailment and the context of treatment. Bloodroot appears often in Native American concoctions for treating pulmonary, gastrointestinal, and skin conditions, in addition to cleansing or purifying the blood. The Eastern band of Cherokees associate intimately with Bloodroot as well – they only harvest Bloodroot after four plants have been found first, believing logically that this would ensure the propagation of this valuable cultural resource.

Bloodroot community

Plant family: Papaveraceae

Location: Rock Ledge Trail

Growing zone: 3-9

Height: 5-12 in.

Spread: 5-12 in.

Bloom time: April, May

Bloom description: Delicate white petals with yellow stamens; blooms last only a few days, but large colonies will see a longer bloom time.

Leaf type: Bluish-green leaves are rounded and notched at the top with two large lobes at the base.

Garden uses: Use massings of this early spring wildflower as a deciduous groundcover. It is a great addition to a woodland home garden that has gritty soil and dappled shade. It is native to the Ozark and Ouachita Mountain counties.