Monday, May 6, 2013


Cut stem of bloodroot oozing red sap
What: With all the bloodroot coming up in our woods, I got curious what other poppies we have here in Vermont. And it doesn't look like much. Magee and Ahles's Flora of the Northeast, which is a complete record of all vascular plants in NE and NY, lists 6 genera and 9 species. Only two of these are found in Vermont, bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and celandine poppy (Chelidonium majus). I posted about bloodroot last week. Celandine is an extremely abundant plant, at least in Burlington, growing in sandier, but moist waste places. It has beautiful yellow flowers and super furry stems/undersides of leaves. I've used the sap as a dye and got a yellowish-orange color.

Bloodroot rhizome cut in half to show showing "blood" beading up on surface
Ecological notes: I was mostly curious because things in the poppy family exude a milky sap that has a yellow/orange/red hue to it. The sap of poppies (family Papaveraceae) contains isoquinoline alkaloids, which are narcotics. These compounds are largely toxic to animals and have a fowl smell. Morphine comes from opium poppy (Papaver somnifera). I'm not sure exactly why the sap is pigmented, but it may serve as a visual warning to would-be-predators not to eat the plant, as any broken part of the plant will readily ooze the brightly colored sap.

Celandine leaf stem broken to show yellow sap

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