South Dakota Native Plant Research
Papaveraceae : Sanguinaria canadensis

Papaveraceae : Sanguinaria canadensis


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Family Name


Common Name


Native American Name

Lakota: ok šaša


Sanguinaria canadensis is a perennial herb with shallow, extensively branched rhizomes, 6-15 mm in diameter, that contain a red juice. The ends of the rhizome branchjes produce I leaf and 1 flower scape. At anthesis the leaf is usually shorted than the scape, but the petiole and blade rapidly expand and soon over tower the flower scape. The petiole reaches 10-35 cm in length, and the leaf blade becomes 6-20 cm long by 8-20 cm wide. The blade usually 3-7 lobed, almost circular in outline, green on top and waxy below, the margins entire to wavey. The flower forms at the end of a peduncle 5-12 cm long and has 2 rounded, membranous sepals, 2-12 mm long and 5-8 mm wide. The 8 (sometimes up to 16) white petals are oblanceolate to elliptic, 10-30 mm long and 5-12 mm wide, with 4 petals usually slightly larger than the others. The numerous stamens are up to 1 cm long with yellow anthers and the style is 2-lobed. The fruit is a spindle-shaped capsule, 3-5 cm long and 7-11 mm wide, containing ovoid, reddish brown seeds that have a prominent crest. Bloodroot blooms in late March into May on woodland slopes along the eastern edge of South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Bloodroot makes a dramatic ground cover in shaded gardens. The flowers are showy, sweetly scented and attract native bees. The flowers appear before most other plants have begun to leaf out and then disappear under a canopy of very striking leaves. The plants then vanish by midsummer. This species produces several types of alkaloids, and the rhizomes have been used in traditional medicines and some modern commercial products. The rhizomes can also be used to make red to yellow natural dyes.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: The pods can be harvested April and May when they begin to split open.

Germination: The seeds have a hard dormancy and are best sown in the summer or fall that they are harvested. Refrigeration of the seeds before planting is advised.

Vegetative propagation: Segments of the rhizomes can be transplanted in late fall or early spring.

Light: Partial shade to full shade.

Soils: Organically rich well drained soils.

Water: Moist to medium dry conditions. Wet conditions are not tolerated.

Papaveraceae : Sanguinaria canadensis