Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Bloodroot Information from the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

bloodroot information from Appalachia

bloodroot noun A perennial wild plant (Sanguinaria canadensis); the red juice from its root is used to make a medicinal tea and a dye. The plant is often grown for sale. Same as coon root, puccoon, red Indian paint.

1901 Lounsberry Southern Wild Flowers 197 To the Indian the plant was known as the “red puccoon.” They used its highly colored juice in war time to paint their faces and also to dye many materials for their baskets. In medicine it it still employed domestically as an expectorant. 1937 Hyatt Marthy Lou’s ¬†Kiverlid 99 In them days most persons got poke berry juice fer writing’ with, or sometimes they’d use puccoon root-blood root they called hit-but hit would soon fade down. 1940 Caton Wildflowers of Smokies 2 It derives its name from the fact that the juice of both stem and root is reddish, the stems “bleeding” when broken. 1962 Brewer Hiking 59 Trailing arbutus, Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, trillium, violets and several other wildflowers bloom there in April. 1962 Dykeman Tall Woman 169 But she would spy out their secrets-bloodroot and yellow ragwort, snakeroot and wild ginger, the cohoshes and lady’s slippers, and most particularly that root of the gineseng. 1970 Campbell et al. Smoky Mt Wildflowers 18 The roots contain an orange-red sap, which accounts for the common name. 1971 Krochmal et al. Medicinal Plants Appal 226 [The juice] is an emetic, laxative, and emmenagogue; and because of its expectorant qualities, it has been used to treat chronic bronchitis. This plant is used both as a pain reliever and a sedative. When combined with oak bark, the roots give a red dye. In Appalachia, a piece of bloodroot is sometimes carried as a charm to ward off evil spirits. 1972 Cooper NC Mt Folklore 12 Yellow dock, mandrake, poke root, blood root and black cohosh were used as alternatives to tone up the system and establish a health condition. 1982 Stupka Wildflowers 39 The rootstock that gives this plant its name is 1/2-1 in. thick and up to 4 in. long, and contains a bright orange-red juice, said to have been used medicinally as a tonic and stimulant….Among its other names are “puccoon-root” and “red Indian paint.”

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


If you missed my post about the bloodroot that blooms around my mountain holler go here.


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  • Reply
    April 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    We have bloodroot growing in the holler near here, beautiful little plant, doesn’t like it up on the hill where we live.

  • Reply
    Eleanor Loos
    April 15, 2017 at 11:49 am

    What a beautiful and delicate wild flower. They are in my yard, too, in northern Ohio. It seems you don’t see them one day and the next day there are buds and the day when the sun shines they pop open. I do so enjoy your “Blind Pig”, Tipper. Easter blessings to you and your family and all readers. Eleanor Loos

  • Reply
    April 15, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I enjoyed Jim’s comment of going to the place of his dad’s birthplace where he grew up. I don’t think there’s any Bloodroot on my property, at least I’ve never seen it. But about May, I can see a couple of Cucumber trees that drop their pretty red cones sometime later. They’ve got big, white flowering leafs with the Red cone in the middle. It’s pretty! …Ken

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    April 15, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Beautiful little flower, Tipper. Didn’t know about this little white flower being used for a dye, but many years ago I saw my mother take the root of poke salad and make a beautiful deep rose color dye. She had a pretty rose colored dress and she took a white slip, dipped it in the dye and it came out the most beautiful deep rose color which happened to match perfectly with the dress. I still have the slip and the color has not faded.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 15, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Interesting, I have seen bloodroot used in many herbal books. It doesn’t grow where I live so I wondered what it looked like

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 15, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Only one word in the whole treatise I didn’t know – emmenagogue. So, I looked it up. Well Okey Dokey then. Now I know although I’m not so sure I really wanted to.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    April 15, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Oh Tipper: Soon I will have a difficult ‘visit’ to the cemetery where my brother was buried recently – along side my mother and father’s final place. But I will take a a bit of my blood root plant from THE GARDENS OF EVA and plant it on my brother’s grave!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    April 15, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Great memory by Jim Casada. When time permits I love to read the comments written by your readers. There were so many wildflowers and plants growing near my mountain home growing up. The Bloodroot looks very familiar. I feel saddened at times when I realize I didn’t pay as much attention as I could have. This is one of many reasons we hear the expression that “youth is wasted on the young.” I do believe your blog helps me to have more meaningful conversations with family and friends now. I am finding folks who lived within a few short miles had a totally different experience growing up.
    So many experiences were unique to Appalachia. Even with the vast resources in my state of WV there were some major problems not seen anymore. As a child I occasionally saw an older person. with a goiter. In those days there was sometimes very little access to fish except for the occasional trout. This resulted in the goiters from lack of iodine. My brother in law still loves salt fish because his Mother would somehow obtain a bucket of salt fish to cook on occasion. We never ate salt fish nor were we permitted to eat fresh trout due to the bones. Such a simple fix adding iodine to salt, but many Appalachians suffered from this disfigurement during my childhood. It was not uncommon to see a preacher laying hands on those with goiters because it was such a visible problem. As usual I have strayed off course, but that sometimes happens as we reminisce.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 15, 2017 at 8:33 am

    Daddy was mighty partial to bloodroot, and I think the main reason was that he associated the plant and its delicate blooms with the home site where he spent the most meaningful days of his youth. It lay high up on Juneywhank Branch, located in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
    Carrying this love of a plant on to the next generation, a few years back in early spring brother Don and I accompanied a first cousin, her husband, and their two children to the homeplace Daddy so cherished. It was the place where our cousin’s mother was born, and the bushwhack was a pilgrimage my cousin and her family had never made. It was a grey, dismal day with rain off and on, but when we got to the barely visible ruins of the place that was once home to a bustling family, Don located a single bloodroot in early bloom.
    As we sat resting at the spring which had once served the Casada home, eating sandwiches and drinking cold, sweet water from that spring, our cousin pulled a container from her day pack. It contained the ashes of her mother, and in a lovely and deeply moving tribute, she sprinkled the cremains around the bloodroot, offered a few words of heartfelt memory, and we all bowed in tribute to a hardy woman of the Appalachians who had gone before us.
    For me, bloodroot and that enduring, endearing memory will forever be inextricably linked.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 15, 2017 at 8:17 am

    We have bloodroot growing on the east end of our house in near-complete shade. The previous owner planted it. It has hung in for the 25 years we have lived here but one who knows the plant in the wild would say it is a very poor location for it. I would never have planted it here myself which just goes to show, I guess, how much I know.
    I have an affection for bloodroot because my grandmother first showed me the bleeding root. She was a woods-wise woman.
    Those little snippets from DSME intrigue me because I wonder how many of those books I could find. I have a hard time finding the kind of books I look for.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 15, 2017 at 6:16 am

    All that and it’s a pretty little plant too!

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