Sanguinaria canadensis L —Blood root; red puccoon
FAMILY: Papaveraceae—the Poppy Family (see Chelidonium)
PHENOLOGY: Bloodroot is an early spring plant, with flowers appearing in April before the leaves.
DISTRIBUTION: Sanguinaria canadensis is distributed in rich woods.
PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: This perennial plant grows from a stout, knotted rhizome that sends up a large white flower on a scape, with a single leaf: orbicular in outline, up to 2 dm wide at maturity in late season, 3-9 lobed; scape: at flowering 5-15 cm; flowers: 2-5 cm wide; sepals: 2, falling early; petals: 8-16, 4 usually longer than the others and the flowers quadrangular in outline; stamens: numerous; ovary: narrow, style terminated by a capitate, 2-lobed stigma; fruit: a fusiform capsule, 3-5 cm long, crowned by the persistent stvle; root, scape, petiole, and leaves bleed a red-orange latex when bruised.
POISONOUS PARTS: The entire plant contains alkaloid-laden red latex.
SYMPTOMS: The papaveraceous alkaloids can cause dropsy and glaucoma in humans. Loss of human life and livestock has been reported after consumption of plants containing these alkaloids. Symptoms include, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, shock, and coma. Under natural conditions, no cases of bloodroot poisoning are known.
POISONOUS PRINCIPLES: Physiologically active latex constituents include sanguinarine (pseudochelerythrine). chelerythrine, protopine, homochelidonine, and resin.
CONFUSED TAXA: No spring-flowering plants from rich woods can readily be confused with bloodroot.
SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Humans and livestock are poisoned by poppy alkaloids.
TREATMENT: (11a)(b); (26)
OF INTEREST: The colored latex was used by Amerindians for painting skin and arrowshafts. The alkaloid sanguinarine from this plant is used in research to induce glaucoma in laboratory animals.