POISONOUS PARTS: Rhizome (thickened roots). MAY BE FATAL IF INGESTED. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, faintness, dizziness, dilated pupils, fainting, diarrhea, heart failure. Toxic Principle: Isoquinoline alkaloids.
Habitat Information: Habitat includes level, rocky, ravine, bluffs and valley lowlands in mesic to moist deciduous woods. Not eaten by most herbivores because of its toxicity. (Illinois Wildflowers)
Garden Uses: The earliest of spring bloomers, and when coming up, the leaves curl around a flower stalk of star-like blooms. (Johnson, L., Grow Wild!, 1998) The large leaves add lushness and are comparable to hostas, and are a great substitute, as they have less appeal to slugs. They are ephemerals which is an adaptation of many woodland herbaceous plants. Ephemeral plants usually come up before the forest canopy leafs out in early spring, flower while the open woodland canopy has a lot of bright light and moisture, and go dormant, dying back to their underground parts later in the throughout the hot and dry summer months. (Evergreen)
Insect Relationships: The plant is a nectar source in early spring for bees, and other beneficial insects. (Evergreen) Honeybees, little carpenter bees, Halictid bees, and Andrenid bees like this plant in the spring. Syrphid flies, bee flies, and beetles eat pollen. (Illinois Wildflowers)
Like trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) and large flowered bellwort, (Uvularia garandiflora) which often inhabit the same wooded habitat, the plants' seeds are dispersed by ants, which take the sugary flesh on the seed, and the seeds to their nests. (Evergreen)
Traditional Edible, Medicinal Uses: The species contains alkaloids, toxic in larger doses. Should only be used under qualified guidance of practitioners. Excessive doses can cause fatal nervous system suppression, nausea and vomiting. Should not be used by pregnant or lactating women. Sap can cause irritation to mucus membranes. Traditional remedy for fevers and rheumatism, inducing vomiting, and played part in divination. Modern herbalists often use bloodroot to promote coughing mucus clearing. The root has been used as an anaesthetic, cathartic, emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, diuretic, febrifuge, sedative stimulant and tonic. Taken to treat bronchial, respiratory tract, throat infections, poor circulation, external skin diseases, warts, nasal polyps, benign skin tumors, sore throats, and chilblains. Sanguinarine, the red sap from the root is a dental plaque inhibitor. Root is a homeopathic treatment for migraines.
Has insect repelling properties when applied to body, however as above, caution is advised due to toxicity. (Plants for a Future)
It grows well in rich, mesic to somewhat dry deciduous forests, often in areas of sugar maple. (Wild Flower Centre, LBJ)
Effective as ground cover around the base of trees. A thin layer of deciduous leaves provide mulch for the plants during the winter months.
This plant assumes its name, Bloodroot, because stems and rhizomes exude a bright red fluid when broken. The red juice was used by First Nations People as a dye for baskets, clothing, and war paint, as well as for insect repellent. (Niering)
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