Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, is one of our loveliest spring ephemerals.  

As an ephemeral, bloodroot has a very short blooming season. Before the trees leaf out and shade the forest floor, bloodroot must produce a flower and have it pollinated. The way the leaf remains wrapped around the flower is perhaps an adaptation that a offers some protection from the cold of early spring.

Bloodroot has clusters of bright yellow stamens to attract pollinators such as bees. Since nectar is energy intensive for the plant, bloodroot does not produce any.  Pollinators get no reward for visiting the flowers,  but since there are so few flowers blooming in early spring they have little choice.   If the flowers aren't visited by pollinators, they can self-pollinate.   Since self-pollination does not produce genetic diversity, it is a backup to ensure survival of the species.

Bloodroot encourages ants to spread its seeds. Ants are attracted to the fleshy elaiosomes, rich in a sticky oil, that cover the seeds. The ants collect the seeds and bring them back to their nest, where they consume the elaiosomes and dispose of the seeds with other debris. This provides a perfect area for the seeds to germinate.