The last vestiges of snow and ice are gone, the crows, robins and redwing blackbirds have returned, and nature is bursting forth with renewal for another year. Soon we will be enjoying an abundance of leaves on trees and blooming wildflowers. Spring is the season for trilliums, marsh marigolds and bloodroot.
Sanguinaria canadensis is a beautiful white wildflower that emerges through last fall’s leaves, and blooms before its single leaf unfolds. It has 8-12 delicate petals and many yellow stamens in the center. The leaf has 5-7 lobes and may be 25 cm across. The leaves and flowers sprout from the dark rhizome that grows just under the surface. When broken, reddish sap oozes out of these rootstalks, which is where they get their name.
Like trilliums, the seeds of bloodroot are dispersed by ants. They have a fleshy covering (elaiosome) that is attractive to ants. The insects carry the seeds to their nests where the elaiosome is eaten. The seeds are put into the nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. The flowers do not produce nectar. Nevertheless, bees and other flying insects visit to collect pollen. The bitter taste of the leaves and rhizomes deter many animals from eating these beautiful spring wildflowers, although deer may feed on them in early spring.
Nancy Melcher is The Nature Nut. Send details of your sightings or questions about the natural world to: firstname.lastname@example.org