After the snow melts, one of the first wildflowers to emerge is Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Native to the eastern U.S. and Canada, it grows in woodlands and moist areas. Its name comes from its reddish-orange sap, which will stain and cause disfiguring lesions on your skin. Native Americans used the root to make a reddish dye, so one wonders if they suffered contact with the plant or if it was diluted when used.
Curiously, they live symbiotically with ants who disperse their seed,
(from Wikipedia) “a process called myrmecochory. The seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris.”
Bloodroot spreads readily to form large colonies, ideally in moist, pH neutral soil in partial to full shade. My colony grows under deciduous red maple trees, which leaf out after they bloom, and shortly before Bloodroot complete their growing season, becoming dormant in late spring. There is a double cultivar available from nurseries, which doesn’t spread as readily as the native variety as they produce less seed. Collecting plants from the wild is prohibited, so always purchase from a reputable nursery. I believe collecting seed is allowed; however, always leave enough to ensure the growth of the colony.