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BLOODROOT Sanguinaria canadensis

In Genesis 8:22 God is responding to Noah’s offering, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” We have an environment with seasonal cycles that do not change. We depend on these seasons in faith.

Today we examine a wildflower that blooms very early. Even a late snow does not deter it from its appointed appearance. It also has a unique history of medicinal uses.

BLOODROOT

Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroots are among the earliest wildflowers to bloom. They can be found in wooded areas where humus is thick, such as around boulders.

The sap is red and the stem, emerging from the soil, is mauve. The petals are white and vary in number. I’ve seen some blossoms with as few as five petals and others with 12.

The blossoms rise 4 to 6 in. above the ground and measure 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. The pistil and stamen are yellow.

The forest-green leaves remind me of mittens. They form a “cup” to shield the bud from the late-winter cold. On the other hand, when blossoms occur during a warm spell, the leaves open fully, as pictured.

After the petals fall, the leaves remain in an open and horizontal position. Erect, elongated seed pods form atop the stems that were once occupied by the blossoms.

Bloodroot has had a long history of medicinal uses taught by Indian medicine men during Colonial Days and used by herbalists today. Within the past 30 years one toothpaste company included it in their product claiming its protection against plaque better than fluoride.

Another use is juice from the root to create a reddish orange dye once used to color fabric. The brilliance of the color depended on several factors: the metal of the pot in which it was boiled, the length of time the roots were immersed, and the use of alum (aluminum potassium sulfate) as the fixative. Iron, copper, or aluminum pots affect the final result. There must have been a great number of Bloodroot in colonial times to supply the amount of dye described in those ancient records. (Jack Sanders)

When I lived in northern Rockdale, there may have been as many as 20 bloodroot plants on my property. The blossoms are such a joyous announcement of the end of winter that the more plants that survive the happier we were.

This weekend we celebrate MLK Day. I am grateful for his constant call for peaceful demonstrations while others promoted violence. One month ago we joyously sang of Peace on Earth. May that spirit which enwrapped us during the Christmas season, and was promoted by MLK, guide us through this new year.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit The Sketching Pad in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.

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