Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is an amazingly beautiful plant that's commonly encountered throughout the eastern half of the United States each spring.
It takes both its common and scientific names from the blood-red sap that flows through its veins. The sap was used in dyes, ceremonial paints, and a host of medicinal purposes among native tribes.
Bloodroot’s large, bold white flowers come on very fast as the days start to warm and typically have two sepals and eight to twelve showy petals in multiple series of four.
Occasionally you will find flowers that have extra petals. The bloodroot cultivar ‘Multiplex’ only has petals—it no longer has fertile parts. All of the stamens (male parts) and the stigma (female part) have been replaced by more white petals. What a sight!
Unfortunately bloodroot’s petals are often blown off by the slightest breeze.
Bloodroot does not produce nectar, but insects (mostly bees and flies) are tricked anyway, and may end up pollinating the flowers in exchange for a few protein-rich munches of pollen. The stamens turn outward to brush against any insects and avoid pollinating itself.
Fortunately the flowers can self-pollinate if insect visitors do not get there in time or if they are not successful. The stamens will bend inward to brush against the flower's own stigma, thereby pollinating itself!
Bloodroot also bribes ants into protecting their seeds. Each seed has a fatty snack called an elaiosome, which the ants love. Ants carry the seeds into their nests, eat the elaiosomes, and toss the seeds into the "trash"—a perfect underground compost pile for jump-starting their seedlings the next year.
You may have trouble finding bloodroot blooms when it's cold and overcast, as they're less likely to open on those days. But there's lots more going on in nature right now, and you never know what you're going to catch in action!