Sanguinaria canadensis is a gem that glows brightly in those gloomy dark days of late winter.
And gives you hope that spring is surely on the way.
It has a carpet of brilliant, snow white stars of flowers. Each with a boss of sunshine golden stamens.
Blooms are held atop powdery blue, scalloped leaves to complete the pretty picture.
Traditional First Nation American herb
Sanguinaria canadensis plants form a fleshy, underground rhizome that has deep red sap. Thus giving it the common name of Blood Root of course.
The rhizomes were also prized and harvested by the First Nation peoples of the Americas.
Firstly for use as red dye.
And secondly as medicine.
Though ingesting Blood Root is not recommended today, it is currently being investigated by modern science for anti-cancer qualities that may prove useful in the treatment of skin cancer.
Cunning plants that use ants to tend them
Marvellous Sanguinaria canadensis have a cunning way of getting their seeds planted in the wild. Because each seed bears an elaiosome attachment, which is full of fat and sugar, and ants find utterly irresistible.
So the ants gather the seeds, cart them away to their nests underground, eat the delicious elaiosome attachments and happily discard the seed.
Hence the seed is conveniently cleaned and safely planted underground courtesy of the ants.
Happy in areas with summer humidity
Blood Root grows prolifically in the forests of North Carolina in south east U.S.A.
So it is obviously well adjusted to summer humidity and moisture, as well as winter cold.
But it also occurs in woodlands from as far south as Florida to as far north as Canada.
Winter gem for under trees & shrubs
It loves Deep Shade, lots of leaf litter, acid conditions, and consistent moist mulch while it is growing in the winter and spring. Then in the summer it will retreat underground to the rhizomes, ready to emerge to brighten next winter again.
Carpet in the shade
Sanguinaria canadensis gently increases the colony of rhizomes each year to form a delightful winter carpet. It is in no way invasive (you should be so lucky).
So plant it under trees and shrubs where it can be left undisturbed to make it’s own little colony.
And look absolutely gorgeous interplanted with miniature daffodils and amongst hostas.
Not attractive to rabbits
Fortunately bunnies do not seem to enjoy the taste, or maybe they don’t like their teeth turning red.
15cm. High x 20cm Wide each plant, but will reproduce out to form a small carpet.
SEED SOWING ADVICE: A big fiddle, but worth every bit.
Seed for Sanguinaria canadensis should be sown indoors during cool weather.
INDOORS: First soak the seeds in warm (not boiling) water for 24 hours.
Then mix the seed with a little moist sand / sieved seed raising mix, on one half of a damp paper towel (or I prefer to use coffee filter paper as it is sturdier).
Now double the paper over, and enclose all in a clip-lock bag.
And place the bag in the fridge (not freezer) for 30 days.
Then after the month of cold chilling, remove from the fridge and scatter the seed on the surface of good quality potting mix.
Now pat the seeds gently to the surface of the mix to ensure good contact.
And cover the seeds with approx. 12mm of sieved mix.
Then thoroughly moisten the mix by standing the punnet in a shallow water bath.
And allow the moisture to percolate up to the surface of the mix from below.
Top dress the punnet with some very aged decomposed leaf mulch, as this contains compounds the seeds appreciate.
Cover the punnet with lid to help maintain moisture, as these seeds need to remain consistently moist for germination.
Now place the punnet in a warm position for 30 days.
You can use a heat mat if you have one, and this maintains optimum temperatures.
Temperatures of 20-22°C are best for rapid and optimum germination.
And continue to keep the punnet moist by misting the surface from a spray water bottle.
Seeds of Sanguinaria canadensis need a double period of chilling to germinate (or two winters out in the wild). So now we trick them by wrapping the thoroughly moist punnet in cling wrap, and placing it back in the fridge for another period of 30 days chilling.
Fianlly, after this second chilling period, remove the punnet from the fridge and once again place in the warm, well-lit position.
Seedlings emerge in approx. 7-21 days (Finally, at last!).
But if all else fails – wrap the punnet in brassica net to keep mice and slugs out, and stick it out in the frost and cold of winter, and let nature take its course.
Once you have Sanguinaria canadensis plants growing in the garden – the ants will take care of seed sowing and germination after that.
SEED COUNT: 5 seeds per pack. (Seed of this unusual plant is scarce).
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