Sanguinaria canadensis

Here they come… like little soldiers rising from the earth– Bloodroot flowers!  Look how their arms are held tight to their sides as they pierce through the cold and damp of early March! These precious wildflowers are among the first to bloom in Southwest Virginia.

At my house, the emergence of bloodroot flowers is truly the first sign of spring. I have a little moss-covered grotto on the other side of our stream, and there in the grotto I have been planting tiny “starts” of native wildflowers. The inspiration to do this came from these native bloodroot plants –they were already there, growing happily under the limestone outcroppings when I first bought the property a few years ago.

I have to say, I am regularly startled by the brilliant white of these flowers! Perhaps it is just the fact that they emerge so quickly from under a carpet of wet, brown leaves, at a time when nothing green has even considered popping up yet. The ground is still cold, (and it is not entirely pleasant to be outside!) and then– lo and behold, here come the happy, brilliant faces of bloodroot flowers!

The genus name of this plant (Sanguinaria) refers to the blood-like color of its sap.  The juice is poisonous and irritating to the skin. It has been used as a natural dye by Native American basketmakers.

Here’s a full description of Bloodroot from Wikipedia:

“Bloodroot grows from 7 to 19 inches tall. It has one large basal leaf, with five to nine lobes. The leaves and flowers sprout from a reddish rhizome with bright orange sap that grows at or slightly below the soil surface. The rhizomes grow longer each year, and branch to form colonies. Plants start to bloom before the foliage unfolds in early spring. After blooming the leaves expand to their full size and go summer dormant in mid to late summer.

The flowers bloom from March to May depending on the region and weather. They have 8-12 delicate white petals and yellow stamens, and two sepals below the petals, which fall off after the flowers open. The flower stems are clasped by the leaves. The flowers are pollinated by small bees and flies. Seeds develop in green pods, and ripen before the foliage goes dormant. The seeds are round and black to orange-red when ripe, and have white elaiosomes, which are eaten by ants.”

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi! I am working on a website documenting the natural beauty and wonder of Nelson County, VA, and I would love to include some of your photos, especially this gorgeous bloodroot. There’s a lot of Bloodroot in our hills, and one of your photos here would make an amazing central image for our site, (, which is of course not for profit or commercial use or anything, and we would (and do already, actually) link back to your Virginia Wildflower site here, which is amazing. Thank you for all of your gorgeous documentation!

    1. gloria says:

      I’d be happy to have my photos used in this way. Thanks for asking. I’ll check out your website too. Linking back to Virginia Wildflowers would be a plus for me. I just want to see my site get used by anyone interested in local natural resources. Good luck and stop back often!

  2. Thank you so much! I’ll update our site tonight, your work is so very appreciated.

  3. bizdatabob says:

    We recently found bloodroot in the small woodland behind our Fairfax County, VA home. Lovely!

  4. Mary Tunstall says:

    Blood root brightening the path beside Little Otter Creek, James River Park off the Blue Ridge Parkway. March 25, 2017.

  5. Faye Routon says:

    Hi-;love the site! My question-are bloodroot, trillium or may apple protected or endangered? We have a small stream on our far and would love to encourage some natives. I would like to transplant some of these three, but won’t if it’s a not legal. I’m in Amherst County.

    1. Gloria says:

      I was faced with a similar situation when I moved to the mountains ten years ago. I went to the local Forest Service office and asked for a limited-time permit to collect the plants I needed to restore a unique limestone outcropping that we had on our property. They were happy to help and then I felt assured that I could legally collect. The plants you mentioned are not endangered, so I think it is safe to transfer some to your farm. Good luck!

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