Bloodroot in Bloom

By Derek Stoner, Middle Run Reforestation Coordinator

While leading a hike at Middle Run Natural Area recently, our group came across a beautiful spring ephemeral: a beautiful flower of the forest that grows and blooms and quickly dies back in the spring.

The bloodroot is a member of the poppy family, and each spring, the plant sends up one leaf and a single flower.  The flower has white lobes (petals) and a yellow center (the stamen and pistils).  These flowers only open when the sun is out, and close up each night during their brief bloom period. 

Bloodroot is one of the first native wildflowers to bloom in spring.
Bloodroot is one of the first native wildflowers to bloom in spring.

The root of the bloodroot has a reddish colored juice (sap), which gives the plant its name.  When the stem or root is cut, it appears to be bleeding.  The Native Americans used the juice as an insect repellent, for the treatment of fungus infections such as ringworm, and for the treatment of rheumatism. 

Fun Fact: Bloodroot is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory.  The seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants.  The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate.  The seeds also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris.

If you are interested in visiting Middle Run Natural Area, an 800-acre natural area owned by New Castle County, you may want to join us for Delaware’s first ever Bio-Blitz.  On Sunday, April 26, volunteers will join up with experts to survey the area’s plant and animal life, and try to document as many species as possible.  A Bio-Blitz is a great opportunity to learn more about the interesting diversity of life found living in our local habitats.  For more information, visit: http://www.delawarenaturesociety.org/pdfs/bioblitz09.pdf.

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