The Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is one of the first spring wildflowers to emerge in the Southern Appalachians where I live. The Ieaves and single flower sprout from a rhizome that is rich with a bright vermillion-colored sap from which its common name is derived. This sap contains benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, primarily the toxin sanguinarine. In the past, bloodroot was used as a folk remedy and as a dye. The rhizome grows just beneath the surface of the soil, getting larger each year, and eventually branching out to form colonies. The flower of 7-12 delicate petals blooms before the leaves fully emerge.
The seeds of bloodroot have extra organs called elaiosomes that attract ants. The ants carry the seeds to their nests and feed the lipid-rich elaiosomes to their larvae, then toss the seeds into middens. This process of seed dispersal by ants is known as myrmecochory. It is estimated that 5% of all flowering species use myrmecochory for seed dispersal.
I found this small colony of bloodroots in late March huddled at the base of a stone wall in Hot Springs, NC. They were all nearly ready to burst in to bloom, but it was still quite cold, and so they waited out the cold, looking snug in their leaf blankets, waiting for a burst of sunshine.