I’m Saving Myself for Pollination

Let’s take a very brief respite from the socio-religious implications of science, soil testing, and compost tea to ponder a more lighthearted topic. I need a bit of a morale-boost.

You: “O.K. Holly, Spring’s allegedly coming…how about a closer look at some wildflowers?”

Me: “Done!” (fingers snapping)

For a short time in March, forest floors across Eastern North America can be absolutely littered with a multitude of sparkling white flowers.  This very cool little plant, Sanguinaria canadensis, is one of the first wildflowers to emerge in the spring and colonizes deciduous and mixed woodlands.

Flock of bloodroots, open for business at the fabulous Mt. Cuba Center.

A member of the Poppy family, Sanguinaria is a monotypic genus; that is, there’s only one species.  Commonly known as Bloodroot –  mostly.  However, S. canadensis is also known as (and I quote):   Bloodroot, Red Puccoon, King Root, Red Root, Red Indian Paint, Ochoon, Coonroot, Cornroot, Panson, Pauson, Snakebite, Sweet Slumber, Tetterwort. Large Leaved Sandwort, Large Leaved Bloodwort, plus whatever else Aunt Minnie “knowed it by”.

As one of the first wildflowers out of the ground, it’s still darn cold when the Bloodroot flower appears, and they’re quite protective of their private parts. The one leaf emerges at the same time and cups around the flower, helping to protect the fragile blossom from wind, rain, and snow. The petals also close up at night to save the pollen,since in most locations it’s so cold that few insects, save the occasional fly or beetle, are out and about. And as a last resort, they can just “do it themselves”, better described as self-pollination.

I have been pollinated! Victory is mine!

If you break off a stem or piece of the root, out will ooze a reddish-orange juice, hence the common name.  It’s been prescribed for myriad conditions by Native Americans and herbal practitioners.  One of the more interesting properties is that the sap is an escharotic – it kills tissue. Ironically, according to herbal lore, to draw love to you, wear or carry a piece of the rhizome. If attempting this bit of magic, maybe it’s best not carried in one’s pants pocket.

5 thoughts on “I’m Saving Myself for Pollination”

  1. Yes, thank you for a reminder that spring is on its way! Maybe this will be the year I get off my duff and try planting here in Zone 7. I’ve wanted to ever since I read Thomas Jefferson’s gardening logs.

  2. Beautiful! And a pity we don’t have these in my neck of the woods. Any other plants I could wear/carry to draw love to me?

    On a more serious note, these Bloodroots remind me somewhat of our native windflowers (Anemone nemorosa) even if they’re from a different family and a bit later in spring.

  3. Thanks, Jeff, Bryn, and Hannes! I love Anemone nemorosa too…just about any early spring flowering thing. I’ll have to work on “plants as love attractors” thing a bit! Bryn, I’m not sure where you are, but there were tons of it ar
    ound the Raleigh NC area (Zone 7b-ish) so go for it!

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