Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is an herbaceous perennial and supposedly a common wildflower in New England, although I do not know of anywhere it grows wild near here. Hardy to zone 3, bloodroot likes moist, acid soil and full sun to partial shade, and if you give it lots of decayed organic matter, it will thrive in a garden setting. Bloodroot flowers are some of the first flowers to appear in spring, usually growing in clumps of several plants that increase rapidly.
A clump of bloodroot flowers (Sanguinaria canadensis)
When the bloodroot flower is a bud, it has one leaf wrapped around it. This leaf does not fully open until after the flower is in full bloom, so in early spring there will be a large white flower (one to two inches across) at the tip of each six to twelve inch stem and a small curled up leaf at the base of the stem. Bloodroot flowers can have anywhere from seven to sixteen alternating broad and narrow petals. The flowers will open in the morning and close in the evening and also on very cloudy days. As the flower fades, the leaf continues to grow and often becomes as large as eight inches across.
The leaves are heart shaped and deeply lobed, with wavy or toothed edges, and the top side is smooth and a darker color than the underside, which shows prominent orange veins.
Bloodroot gets its name from the red orange sap that runs through every part of the plant but is darker in the root. Whenever the plant is cut, it “bleeds,” and the sap does look very much like blood. It is possible to start new plants from seed, although it is easier to divide the thick rhizomes, which should be done in late summer or early fall.
Many years ago, when my parents were newly married and my father was on a fishing trip, he came across massive clumps of bloodroot growing around the remains of an old house in the woods near a pond. He thought the flowers were beautiful, so he dug up a few plants to bring home to my mother. When we built our house here, she gave me some of her plants, so my bloodroot has its own family history!