Monday, March 31, 2008

Rooting for bloodroot.

As a child, I would bike up to a particular woodlot surrounded by farm fields north of Toronto. It contained a ravine with a stream where I would catch crayfish and aquatic insect larvae. Back then I had a decidedly zoological bent, with little interest in greenery, but there were two plants I was always thrilled to find. One was Jack-in-the-pulpit. The other was bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis - a great Latin name! It's bloody, it's Canadian. It's hockey-in-a-herb!) I’m not sure why I was/am so enthralled by those two plants. Perhaps it ’s because of their unique foliage. I’m pretty sure the “bloody” roots were also a draw.

Bloodroot yesterday.

I now have both in my British Columbian garden. Native, no, but still fascinating, and not the least bit invasive. These are plants that know their place and don‘t outwear their welcome, unlike the horribly invasive goutweed, which I didn't invite in.

Bloodroot is an early spring flowerer, one of those that makes the most of the flies and beetles that are the first pollinators, and the weak but ample light available beneath an open forest canopy. It flowers before its multi-lobed leaves fully unfurl. I got mine as a birthday present from my wife. “Oh wow! A bloodroot! How did you know?” She found it in a nursery in Richmond. There are other fans of this peculiar eastern plant? Enough to market it far and wide? That was a surprise.

My little bloodroot is doing pretty well. It has been in the garden for three years, and each spring sends up more stalks. Its lumpy, barely subterranean root system is expanding. But there is trouble on the horizon. Well, actually, just a few inches away. Guess who is creeping up to, and is about to encircle the beloved bloodroot.

You guessed it. The despised goutweed.

I was planning to take a series of pictures of my bloodroot, taken as it opens and grows. I doubt I’ll do that now. One reason is that it will probably be engulfed before it gets very far this year. (It’s a slow bloomer, early, but slow). The second is that I recently discovered that Monarch had already done this, and his clear, crisp photos would put mine to shame. Check out his pictures, and enjoy.

Bloodroot today, in no hurry.

I will nurture my plant, keep the gout away as best as I can, and after it flowers, dig it up and move it somewhere safe. Perhaps split it into more than one plant. And then I will attack the goutweed with a flamethrower. Gardening isn’t for sissies.


Wanderin' Weeta said...

What a beautiful little plant! I love the way the leaves enfold the flower heads as they push their way upward.

I'll be looking out for one at the nurseries.

pookie said...

Ha HA! This is one of the plants I started to source out here in NZ for medicinal purposes -- found a nursery near Christchurch that apparently sells it, but got swamped in familial duties, so never followed through. The rhizome is the part used for skin cancer treatments -- google Cansema, or black salve. Used it to remove a basal cell carcinoma on my leg a few months ago. I had no idea what the plant looked like -- wow.

mon@rch said...

Thanks for your very kind words and I think your photos are just wonderful! I would have also loved to seen the series that you were interested in doing! They are my all time fave flower and can never get enough of bloodroot!

Hugh said...

Thanks, Mon@rch. I'll keep up the project. From reading the comments after your bloodroot post, it appears that this plant is a favourite of many!

Weeta, my plant came from Jones Nursery in Richmond.

And now it's in New Zealand too? This humble plant has fans worldwide!