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No.19: A Bloodroot Story.
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is the first Fourpeaks wildflower and one of the most beautiful. CLICK & GO! (On this page.) Adirondack Letter No.19: "A Bloodroot Story." Photo Essay: 10 photos with captions. All about Bloodroot: The white flowers are weather sensitive . . . The rootstock is thick, round and fleshy . . . with orange-red rootlets. For better nature photos (35mm film, Nikon F3), seeSugar Camp: Bloodroot & Trillium. in '97. There's more at Adirondack Nature Photographs. (On the next page.) List and Links to all the Adirondack Letters in this series.
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"A Bloodroot Story." (Photo Essay)
"A Bloodroot Story" Adirondack Letter No.19
Subject: A Bloodroot Story
Date: Fri, 11 May 2007 19:22:09
From: Martin (Your Adirondack Guide)
To: Fourpeaks Visitors
At: < firstname.lastname@example.org >
Dear Fourpeaks Visitor,
Soon as I stepped out of the jeep, I saw right away what time it
was. I grabbed the toolbox and called out to Bert. Small white
bunches of them, unexpected yet familiar, dotted the green slope
up fresh from the brook. The delicate orange seemed a visible
fragrance of the earth, freed just a few days ago from the grip of
frost. He brought the water and the hose out from under the screen
porch and we set to work.
Both of them at Sugar are pitcher (or cistern) pumps. Their
working parts are up out of the water and need draining for
winter, putting back together in the spring. Old farm pumps one
may still see along our country roads stay out year round. Pump
bodies on them are deep under water, like the stand pumps at Ridge
and the Well House by New Camp, and they don't freeze.
We stood up on the well cover over the new pump and removed and
cleaned the rubber gaskets. The old-style one in the kitchen has
leather for the cup and flapper, and those I replaced. We put back
the well hoses, filled them up, tried the handles, gratified at
the flow of cool water from under the ground.
The brook was fast and high. No sign of budding on the ash and
maple overhead. Sunlight came right through them. No sign of
trillium yet either, though I went down to the rich soil by the
bank and looked closely around. Soil too wet that day to think of
woods work, but I took note of the profusion of tree sprouts down
by the hammock. They'd need cutting out to keep the view.
I came over to look at the sick maple I'd been trying to save for
shade at the corner of the camp. The bark had healed and the new
top we forced out with pruning had a good shape considering what
that tree had been through. Time would tell. Some specimens are
just too poor to survive, I thought. The popple on the other side
is strong for what it is, but I knew it wouldn't last long in that
exposure. The spruce on the kitchen end is the best around, but no
help at all for shade the way that tree grows.
I had him get out the new lawn chairs as I took a last look at
those that had been there for years. Patched and repainted over
time, one of them with a curved back brace I shaped myself, now
too far gone for guest use. They were built by Wally's grandad. He
succumbed to stomach cancer after a painful year of it. Wally went
to Iraq as a Marine. I never heard from him again, through we
exchanged emails while he was there.
Inside I put up a brand new towel bar on the sink by the
drainboard. I left the store tags on as sort a camp joke, a matter
of style. With the same idea in mind I was careful not to remove
the mounting plates left over from the old bar that broke off. And
I relocated the hook with the potholders to a better spot by the
We moved next to Thoreau and got the water working there as well.
Lifting the floorboards, water was high up the antique stone wall.
Not more than two feet across, it was built years ago by dredging
out a sizeable hole with horses, and building the walls from below
while all the while filling back to stabilize them. It's the same
at Gypsy and Sugar. All told there are five old wells like that on
the property. The top row of stones have been mortared to keep
them. The ones at Halsey and Bert Williams have big wooden covers.
I've often thought of putting hand pumps on those or maybe just
dip buckets so visitors could refresh themselves.
I noticed some guest had placed an old smokepipe damper up on the
shelf for a bookend. Neat idea! I took it with me to have Pat weld
a base plate to it and improve its functionality. Later I found a
chimney damper and an old flue cover in among the iron scrap and
I'll have him work those up as well. Better than field stones,
which can be unstable. And, as human artifacts, they'll add a
pleasant sense of history to the place.
At Gypsy Bert checked down in with a flashlight. I didn't have to
tell him. He remembered the groundhogs that drowned there. We
fished the cacasses out with a net. I had the walls cemented over
from outside the camp and they can't get in there now. Together we
hung the new Indian wall decorations. They fit right in. I took
measurements for a new bookshelf and a fresh batten to replace one
that rotted. A small bird flew in and we worried about it, but it
flew out OK. I admired the young butternuts I saved out last year.
In time they'll join the other friendly giants at that place.
I took photos to mark the day. Down on the ground right up close
to them, you can see the one leaf stays curled around the stem. I
marveled at the structures, and felt the mystery of the
persistent reappearance of those fragile plants evey year just at
this time on that one spot by Sugar and nowhere else around as far
as I could ascertain. The sap is red. Native Americans had
medicinal uses for it, though it's poisonous. They put it on their
skin for warpaint. The flowers last just a few days. I went out
Sunday to take a look and long narrow seedpods topped the stems
Thanks for reading this. Spring is for rebirth. With your life in
order, make some time to let it happen.
(Availability Calendar). http://4peaks.com/femailp.htm
Take a walk with me to Sugar and see the bloodroot (photos).
Find a natural place on your own and get the views (trail notes).
Warm up by the fire in a real Adirondack cabin (all about it).
Your Adirondack Guide,
Martin (and George)
P.S. If you liked this letter, save it for the links, and tell a
friend! If you didn't like it, please send it back with "REMOVE"
as the subject. Thanks.
Member Whiteface Mountain Visitors Bureau
Member Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau
This is No.19 of a really occasional Letter, "Hints of
Balsam and Pine from our Corner of the Adirondacks," for
Fourpeaks guests or anyone who ever inquired about a
Fourpeaks Vacation/Getaway. To get off this list reply with
"REMOVE" in the subject heading.
All about Bloodroot
(A Fourpeaks wildflower, found only at Sugar Camp for a few days in early Spring.)
Sanguinaria candensis ( PAPAVERACEAE ), bloodroot is one of the first flowers to bloom in early spring and one of the most beautiful. The white flowers are weather sensitive, falling off almost immediately in late frost and can be difficult to see in perfect bloom. Here in the Northcountry they're to be found around late April, under open hardwood canopies, where the soil is rich but gets plenty of sun. The plants rise from the warming spring soil with a single leaf protectively curled around a lone bud. With the bud encircled by the leaf, there is protection against a cold night that would damage the plants. Like many early spring flowers, it closes at night and even stays closed on especially gloomy days.
It is a small plant, rarely over 5 inches in height, and tends to grow in colonies. The snow-white flowers are composed of 8-12 narrow white petals, two or more inches in diameter altogether. They blaze brightly in the sun, reminding one of patches of snow recently melted. When all the plants in a constellate bloom at once, it's a stellar showing. But you have to be at the right place at the right time. The flowers are extremely fragile and the petals are so delicate that the blossoms often last only a day or two before wind or a rainshower rip them away. You may get there too late. When the petals fall the stem is left with a bulbous ovary at the top.
Bloodroot (other common names include redroot, red puccoon, Indian paint, puccoon-root, coonroot, white puccoon, pauson, snakebite, sweet-slumber or tetterwort) gets its name from the red sap that comes from its stem and roots. The roots, when broken, exude a bright red fluid and "bleed."
The rootstock is thick, round and fleshy, slightly curved at ends, and is about 1 to 4 inches long, with orange-red rootlets. Both the root and the scarlet or orange-red juice of bloodroot is considered toxic, and contains several alkaloids, red resin and an abundance of starch. The most notable alkaloid is sanguinarine, which has shown antiseptic, anesthetic and anticancer activity. Native Americans used the root for rhuematism, asthma, bronchitis, lung ailments, laryngyitis, fevers and it was also applied to warts. They also used this sap as war paint and for dying fabric. Colonists were quick to catch on, and used the plant to dye cloth -- particularly wool -- a reddish-orange color. The roots are one of the primary coloring agents used by the Cherokee for their basket weaving. Recently, an extract of the root, sanguinarine, was added to toothpaste as a plaque-fighter and marketed under the name Viadent.
As its shape suggests, Sanguinaria canadensis is a member of the Poppy family (Papaveraceae), a small group of some 115 species in 23 genera, found mostly in north temperate zones. The only member of its genus in the world, bloodroot is found wild from Nova Scotia to Florida and as far west as Manitoba and Nebraska. It has been imported to Europe where it also does well.
After flowering, the petals drop and the leaf spreads out, with the underside paler and showing prominent veins. The large blue-grey to green basal leaf is palmately scalloped into 5-9 lobes, and 6 to 10 inches long. Leaves die down after the seeds are dispersed in early summer.
The oblong, narrow, one inch long seedpod is visible a couple weeks after the flower is pollinated. When mature, the pod splits open, and the seeds are carried away, often by ants. The ants eat the aril surrounding the seed, then discard the seeds around their nests.
Bloodroot, like other early flowers can put on their floral shows so early because they have stored food over the previous season in their thick roots, corms, or bulbs. Most plants that flower in late spring or summer rely on food gathered in the current season.
If ingested, overdose symptoms include burning in the stomach, intense thirst, vomiting, faintness, vertigo, intense prostration with dimness of eyesight.
CULTURE / CARE
HUMUS RICH, MOIST SOILS
PARTIAL TO FULL SHADE
GROWS 6-10 INCHES TALL
PLANT RIZOMES ½ - 1 INCH DEEP
SPACE ABOUT 6 INCHES APART
PLANTS ARE TOXIC
COLLECT ROOTS AFTER LEAVES DIE DOWN
PROPAGATE BY DIVISION OR SEED
KEEP MOIST TO PREVENT DORMANCY HARDY IN ZONES 4 - 9 (US)
Text adapted from several internet sources:
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