Botanist's Lens: Ephemeral hearts and solitary root of desire


Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Bleeding hearts' flower

Forest beds that are moist, damp and cool, by now are filled with dangling hearts, in the Pacific Northwest and many similar planting zones (7-9). Ephemerals like 'Bleeding hearts' Lamprocapnos spectabilis (previously known as Digitalis) is a fragile looking ephemeral that enjoys wet ravines and stream banks.

One sight of the ephemeral 'Bleeding hearts' flowers is sure to create a longing desire to wait a whole year to see them emerge again. Within days after the ground temperatures warm up, the first leaves emerge and soon enough, the inflorescence stalks fill up with protruding dangling hearts.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba' (White)

Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Bleeding hearts' young leaves

Bleeding hearts have been gardeners favorite since the Victorian era. Pink and white flowers are the most common, but recent breeding techniques have led to a 'Gold' variety white lime green leaves. (More information here). Root division in spring is easy, but needs outmost care. Seeds sown fresh and fall divisions also work well of propagation.

Sanguinaria canadensis 'Blood Root' flower

Another ephemeral that has been of desire to gardeners over centuries, is 'Blood root' Sanguinaria canadensis. Interestingly enough, for this ephemeral the Latin name, 'Sanguis' means 'blood'. Both 'Bleeding hearts' and 'Blood root' belong to the same family Papaveraceae (also includes: Corydalis and Poppies). 'Blood roots' have roots that actually have a bright red acrid juice, hence the common name. It is a stemless plant, that emerges form the ground with a single flower stalk of a dainty white flower and a tiny leaf next to its base. The flowers are very short lived, aptly suiting its ephemeral habit.

Sanguinaria canadensis 'Blood Root' flower (young linear Daffodil leaves in the backdrop)

Woodlands are filled with awe and desire of ephemerals. In the right moist and damp habitats, ephemerals can flourish for years to come. London Town’s ground canopies are slowly filling up with flowers that have been gardeners desire for ages, Sanguinaria and Lamprocapnos are two of my favorite. What are your favorite woodland ephemerals of desire?

#ephemerals #bleedinghearts #bloodroot