Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bloodroot (pauson, red puccoon, Indian paint, red paint) Papaveraceae Sanguinaria Canadensis, April 18, 2005, Hiram, Maine, John Bonanno photograph

Bloodroot, a hardy perennial, is a member of the poppy family and as such, it requires respect. It is a favorite spring plant in my garden and I recommend it as an essential plant in any Goth themed garden. The flowers come and go quickly. Its name (scientific and common) comes from the sticky red/orange sap which flows through the plant. Applied in sufficient quantity it is said to have the ability to destroy flesh! Bloodroot is poisonous in large doses, causing convulsions, vomiting, reduced blood pressure, profuse salivation, and, finally, respiratory failure. If you expand the photograph you can see the orange tint of the sap in the flower stems. Lately it has attracted attention for supposed anti-cancer effects; for what it's worth, it is FDA approved for use in toothpastes for gingivitis. Traditionally, native Americans drank the root tea as a remedy for fever, laryngitis and various lung ailments; also the root was employed as a love charm and the juice as skin paint. It makes an attractive natural dye. I have found that bloodroot will tolerate a surprising amount of sun (but not full sun) for a woodland plant. It is native, but not plentiful in my area of Maine and is grateful for copious organic material and a moist, light soil. It spreads when happy but will never become a nuisance. What a useful and beautiful ornament to the garden!

"My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect."-D.H. Lawrence 'The Letters of D.H. Lawrence', edited by Aldous Huxley, 1957

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