It is late May here in Maine and we are in the midst of a long, cool spring. The temperatures have only risen above 70 degrees a couple of times which has prolonged spring. Our tulips are still in flower as we are about to flip the calendar forward to June. Hopefully, soon the 70 and 80 degree days will be commonplace and summer colors will dominate the landscape for months.
I am not complaining about the cool spring. I spent 28 years growing up in North Carolina with many sleepless nights because the temperatures never went below the mid eighties. Along with that heat, we never truly enjoyed the spring colors provided by tulips and other ephemeral spring plants. One plant that has really caught my fancy this spring is bloodroot or Sanguinaria canadensis. Bloodroot grows in most areas of North America east of the Rockies but I never had encountered it until we lived in Pennsylvania. This small, woodland gem can be found sporadically in old woodlands. Bloodroot does not like to grow on disturbed sites and I am told it can be difficult to transplant. I asked Peter Beckford from Rebel Hill Farms in Clifton, Maine about the best way to grow Sanguinaria canadensis. Peter recommends collecting bloodroot seed as soon as it is ripe and sowing immediately. He has an outdoor seed bed where he sows the seed directly. It takes about a year for the seed to germinate into new seedlings.
Have you seen bloodroot in flower? The small, bright-white flowers are usually borne sometime around Mother’s Day here in Maine. They resemble small, petaled poppies which provides a clue to their family, the Papaveraceae. The 2″ flowers are produced above the grey-green, lobed leaves. Once the flowers are pollinated by ants, they drop their petals within a couple of days. Then, the foliage continues to grow, reaching almost a foot in height before going dormant for the summer. Different forms of bloodroot can be found in nature including doubles and a fantastic pink strain that we have at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in the Alfond Children’s Garden.
I have come to admire and prize this woodland beauty. Sanguinaria canadensis is unlike any other native plant in the eastern United States. If you have a wooded area in your garden, it is well worth the effort to seek this gem out and add it to your garden.