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The Botannaca Blog

Plant Education, Garden Inspiration,

Creative Endeavors, Mostly Wonder...

  • Writer's pictureAnna


I love the woodland ephemerals. Their sudden appearance and short-lived presence has a mystifying quality to it. It’s almost as if they come announce spring and forecast the joy that is ahead… of longer days, sun and warmth. They disappear just in time for the leaves to fully appear on the trees and for the swimming pool to open. Soon we’re lost in the fullness and activities of summer and we start to forget how precious it was when we got the breath of 60 degree air in April and the flowers opened with the sun and closed with the rain.

Bloodroot with buds closed with the clouds.

Bloodroot opening with the sun.

Sanguinaria canadensis is the latin name for Bloodroot. Sanguis=blood, canadensis=white. It has it’s name from the reddish-yellow sap emitted by all parts of the plant. The Native Americans sought it for dyes and it has been used medicinally as an antiseptic, emetic, and to fight dental plaque.

I’ve been dabbling in natural dyes, so I thought I would dig some up

(hard to do when they’re so pretty!) You can see the red tint to the roots and the orangish stems. When I sliced the roots it looked similar to a beet.

Bloodroot roots and stems ready for the dye bath

After cleaning the soil off all the roots the best that I could, I boiled the water and placed them in the pot to simmer for a couple of hours.

Bloodroot in dye bath

I had some 100% cotton flour sack towels that were already prepared with an alum mordant left over from another project, so I pulled out one of those.

Floursack towel in dye bath

The towel came out sort of a khaki color. I was hoping for something more saturated, so I got it wet again, sliced some of the roots and rolled them up in the cloth.

Rolled towel with sliced roots inside

Here is a closeup of the final product. I wonder if I could get more vibrancy by using different mordants?

I’m thinking about embroidering an image of Bloodroot on the fabric or doing a linocut to print on it. All I have are a few sketches so far.

Sketches of Bloodroot

I’m hosting Easter tomorrow, so this week’s project ends here 🙂

Happy Easter!

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