Monday, April 29, 2013

Bloodroot: Not Just a Pretty Weed

bloodroot (ˈblʌdˌruːt) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide] ---noun
   Also called: red puccoon; a North American papaveraceous plant, Sanguinaria canadensis, having a single whitish flower and a fleshy red root that yields a red dye.  ~World English Dictionary

The Ponca Indians of South Dakota and Nebraska used bloodroot as a love charm, rubbing the juice on the palm of a young bachelor. The Micmac Indians (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick) used the same plant both as an aphrodisiac and as an abortifacient. ~Daniel E. Moerman, Native American Ethnobotany
Many wildflowers which we have transplanted to our gardens are full of magic and charm, while others are full of mystery.  In childhood I absolutely abhorred Bloodroot; it seemed to me a fearsome thing.  I remember well my dismay, it was so pure, so sleek, so innocent of face, yet bleeding at a touch, like a murdered man in the Blood Ordeal. ~ Alice Morse Earle, Old Time Gardens, 1901

Bloodroot contains alkaloids similar to those of the opium poppy, including sanguinarine, which can depress the central nervous system.  Overdoses cause vomiting, irritation of mucous membranes, diarrhea, fainting, shock, and coma.  Most poisonings reported were from medicinal preparations.
~Steven Green and Roger Caras, Venomous Animals & Poisonous Plants