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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Woodland Wildflower for Early Spring

Alas, we have officially made it to spring! This winter was one of the longest and coldest in recent history here in the southeast. Although I have reveled in the quiet landscape of the winter and enjoyed our two snowfalls, I am very ready for the garden to warm up and come to life again. We've had some gorgeous, sunny, spring days teasing us of things to come; followed, by cold fronts suggesting that old man winter doesn't want to wave good-bye just yet, despite what the calendar says. Regardless, the birds have begun their serenading rituals, the frogs are calling for mates and the spring blooms are beginning to appear.

One of my favorite spring flowers that shows up in our woodland garden is bloodroot. At first look, the name bloodroot seems inappropriate for such a beautiful, snow-white flower but it gets its name from the red-orange sap found in its roots and stem. If you cut open the stem the sap will bleed out and stain everything it touches. Native Americans used it as a dye for baskets and clothing, decorating weapons and when mixed with fat, as war paint (hence the name Indian paint).

Southern Meadows

You can't miss these bright blooms as they begin to peak out of the leaf litter. Their large petals and colorful anthers attract small bees and flies. But the bloom is a trickster. It doesn't actually contain any nectar so while the bees and flies desperately search for sugar they inadvertently transfer pollen but in the end they don't get a reward for all their effort. You think they would learn! Often bloodroot is out before bees are even around so like many ephemerals, they can self pollinate by ejecting pollen from their sacs in an attempt to hit the stigma of another plant. Its a little like my boys with their slingshots; but, the more practice they have presumably the better they get.

Southern Meadows

Once the bees and flies are done with the blooms the ants take over. Through a symbiotic relationship referred to as myrmecochory (myrmeco: "ants" and -chory: "dispersal") the ants collect the seeds which have a fleshy organ called elaiosome. The ants take the mature seeds to their nest and eat the elaiosome and put the remaining seeds in their nest debris where it stays protected until germination time. Now, isn't that cool!

Southern Meadows

Bloodroot is just getting established in my garden. And, it does have its challenges ahead. If the deer don't feed on them in early spring my dogs are sure to step on them when they are racing through the woodland garden. Training them to stay on the paths has not been easy.

What is your favorite bloom that says spring has arrived?

I am joining Gail over at Clay and Limestone for Wildflower Wednesday. Do jump over there and take a look at more beautiful posts that celebrate our wonderful wildflowers.

Also, be sure to check out my friend Beth's write up on bloodroot. She has more gorgeous photos and information at Plant Postings.

36 comments:

  1. Hi Karin: I posted about Bloodroot, too. I thought about pulling the post, but we covered slightly different angles on this amazing plant. I added a link to your blog, so people could learn more. So thrilled to see that it's blooming in your garden now! Definitely something to look forward to! :)

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    1. I am so glad you didn't pull your post Beth because your photos are fantastic and more great info!

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  2. I can't remember that the deer have ever bothered my bloodroot...

    Although, it does seem to be a fragile plant. In one of my gardens, I've lost patch after patch, I can't tell whether the home owner is killing it by spraying round up on the chickweed while the bulbs are dormant, or if maybe the wood chips are doing the deed.

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    1. It definitely doesn't stick around for long. The bloom period is just a few days. They do prefer hummus-rich soil and according to Beth at Plant Postings they like a good layer of mulch.

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  3. Karin, wow--that is stunning! I went looking to see if I could find bloodroot in our forest today, but no luck. Perhaps I need to cultivate this wildflower! :-)

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    1. I purchased mine from our local native plant society and I am hoping it will spread in my garden. It is definitely a lovely addition to a woodland garden.

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  4. Hi Karin, one of my favorite spring bloomers...sigh. I do miss them, they were always one the first up in the nursery. Our zone here is so much colder then my previous, there are still big patches of snow laying around...but if spring is showing up in other places, then it's going to show up here sooner or well...later.

    Jen

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    1. Jen, I hope spring finds you very soon! I know I complain about it being cold here but y'all have endured more than your share of snow and cold.

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  5. I love it , amazing to think that it is a wild flower for you, it looks so exotic. I have the double form which is very pretty. I just wish the flowers would last a bit longer.

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    1. Indeed they are short lived...even more reason to celebrate their beauty. :) I tend to stay away from double blooms since it is more difficult for pollinators to get to the nectar but in this case there isn't any so a double bloom would be lovely!

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  6. I had to laugh at your first sentence. The calendar says one thing and the snow and ice say another. Yesterday I was out in the bright sunshine expecting to see a few wildflowers popping on the meadows and nothing, just like in the gardens. I will have to be satisfied with all the Southern states showing me what I am missing so far - at least for a long while yet. I have post coming from the shoot yesterday that makes us look like the arctic!

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    1. It is the arctic Donna, with all the snow, ice, and freezing temps y'all have had! But, the sunshine makes all the difference. It is the gloomy winter days that I really dread. I have to admit I am thankful for living in Georgia because I don't think I could endure that length of winter. I look forward to your photos!

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  7. Myrmecochory - what a great word! Hard to say what my favorite would be - but if I have to choose one I guess it would be Virginia Bluebells.

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    1. Good choice Jason! They are lovely too!

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    2. The leaves are just coming up now around here. Love the blue-green color.

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  8. Nice images of the bloodroot!

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  9. I have just read Beth’s post on Plant Posting about blood root, and here I am on your blog, seeing these lovely, beautiful plants again :-) Possibly a different variety than Beth has? I didn’t know this one from before so have looked it up and I can get both single and double varieties over here in Britain. I think they would like the woodland area at the bottom of my garden, if I could only find somewhere to squeeze them in!

    My favourite spring plant is Arisarum proboscideum, the Mouse Plant – it starts in late winter over here and is gone before July, but I just love those amazing flowers that looks like mice. You can see them on my blog here if you haven’t seen them before:
    http://graphicality-uk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-sweetest-mice-for-garden.html

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    1. The good thing Helene is that they don't take up a lot of space so, by all means squeeze them in. :O) The name alone, mouse plant, sounds intriguing. I am looking forward to reading about it...

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  10. I love Bloodroot, but haven't been very successful with it in my garden. However, when we lived in PA we saw HUGE patches of bloodroot (and trillium, and May apple) in the woods there, and they were a magnificent sight.

    I'm with Jason; if I had to pick a favorite, I'd pick Va Bluebells.

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    1. How glorious that must have been to see such large patches of spring ephemerals! Virginia Bluebells are so lovely, I agree!

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  11. Nature never ceases to amaze me. Thanks for a very interesting and informative post. I always look longingly at pictures of those gorgeous spring ephemerals but have been too intimidated to try them. I justify it by saying that if my garden had the right conditions for them, they would be there already!

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    1. I definitely recommend adding some. I have a few plants that have volunteered in my garden but many native plants have disappeared completely from our area with all the development and I'm not sure they would find their way back on their own.

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  12. I love Bloodroot! I have 3 plants, I think...but so far only 1 is 'up' and even has some buds on it. I wish it stayed in bloom longer than it does...but it's such a pretty little thing :)

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    1. Its true they are very short lived but they have such a fascinating life!

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  13. Wonderful information! I went on a wildflower hike at a local park and we saw bloodroot! It's one I don't have in my garden and must fix it. Happy WW! gail

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    1. I love having native plants in my garden so that I can create a wildlife habitat but also so I can really study and get to know these plants. But, nothing beats seeing them in their natural environment, growing where they know best!

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  14. How lovely to see spring has arrived for you Karin. My bloodroot is snow covered still and it is my earliest native to bloom. When the hyacinth bulbs come up, I know spring has arrived.

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    1. Donna, I hope all that snow melts for you soon! It has been such a long, hard winter for y'all. But I promise spring is on the way very soon! Our first hummer arrived today and that always is a very good sign!

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  15. Such a sweet bloom to greet spring. I have a very young one, and it has not bloomed yet. I do look forward to those lovely blooms someday.

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    1. You will enjoy them, even though they are short-lived! I am waiting for mine to spread and have more blooms! I am not a very patient gardener.

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  16. Interesting post Karin. I always wondered about the name "bloodroot". Now I know. The flower is very simple, and yet it seems to have so many clever means to reproduce. I have always wanted to add Bloodroot to my garden and should make a point of doing it this spring.

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  17. We are headed for the Southeast and glad to know that I can bring some of my double bloodroot which I hated to leave (all) behind!

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  18. I had a bloodroot plant given to me by a friend but it only lasted one spring and then never came back. I need to try it again. IT's method of reproducing is ingenious. Nothing is smarter than nature. :o)

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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