Sanguisorba (Sanguisorba dodecandra)

Sanguisorba dodecandra
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Sanguisorba fact file

Sanguisorba description

GenusSanguisorba (1)

Sanguisorba dodecandra is an attractive alpine plant, with a distinctive, droopy flower spike which is borne on a long stalk (2). The spike is made up of many small, densely packed flowers which form a cylindrical, compact, greenish-yellow to white cluster, known as an inflorescence. The flowers lack petals, although each has four green sepals and many stamens, giving the inflorescence its characteristic bottle-brush appearance (2) (3) (4).

The leaves of Sanguisorba dodecandra are elegant and pinnate, growing from the base of the plant, and have between four and ten pairs of smaller, toothed or serrated leaflets (2) (3) (4).

The small, dry, one-seeded fruits of Sanguisorba dodecandra are enclosed by the ‘hypanthium’, the enlarged base of the flower, which may have distinctive wings and ridges (2).

Poterium dodecandrum.
Height: up to 1 m (2)

Sanguisorba biology

There is very little specific information about the biology of Sanguisorba dodecandra, although it is thought to flower in late summer, from July to August (6). The flowers are hermaphroditic, meaning that both the stamens (the male reproductive organs) and the gynoecium (the female reproductive organ) are found on the same flower (2).

A member of the Roseacea family, Sanguisorba dodecandra is among a minority of species in the family which rely on wind pollination rather than insect pollination (7).


Sanguisorba range

Endemic to the Lombardy alpine region of Italy, Sanguisorba dodecandra is found only in the Orobic and Raethian Alps. It is estimated to occur at around 20 locations throughout the region, in Sondrio and Bergamo provinces (1).


Sanguisorba habitat

Sanguisorba dodecandra is generally found in wet, subalpine meadows and alongside the banks of streams (4). It thrives in humid conditions inside tall forb communities, on the border of shrublands dominated by green alder (Alnus viridis) (1) (5).  


Sanguisorba status

Sanguisorba dodecandra is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Sanguisorba threats

Climate change poses the biggest threat to Sanguisorba dodecandra. As this species grows almost exclusively in wet areas close to streams, any change in the extent of suitable habitat could significantly affect its population, for example as a result of drought due to global warming (1).

One subpopulation of Sanguisorba dodecandra may also be threatened by the construction of a dam, which will potentially alter or destroy suitable habitat for this species (1).


Sanguisorba conservation

Populations of Sanguisorba dodecandra are found within the Regional Park of Orobie Begamasche and the Regional Park of Orobie Valtellinesi. An application to amend the regional law to include this species on the list of protected species of Lombardy has also been proposed (1).


Find out more

Find out more about the genus Sanguisorba:

Find out more about plant conservation:



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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A herb with broad leaves that grows alongside grasses in a field, prairie or meadow.
Ovule-producing organ of the female flower.
Possessing both male and female sex organs.
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
The individual ‘leaf-like’ parts of a compound leaf.
In plants, a compound leaf where the leaflets (individual ‘leaves’) are found on either side of the central stalk.
The transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
A floral leaf (collectively comprising the calyx of the flower) that forms the protective outer layer of a flower bud.
The male reproductive organs of a flower. Each stamen is comprised of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk).


  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
  2. Sutton, J. (2007) Sanguisorba in cultivation. The Plantsman, 6(2): 78-83. Available at:
  3. Thomas, G.S. (2004) Perennial Garden Plants: Or, the Modern Florilegium. Frances Lincoln, London.
  4. Tutin, T.G., Heywood, V.H., Burges, N.A., Moore, D.M., Valentine, D.H. and Webb, D.A. (Eds.) (1968) Flora Europaea Volume 2: Rosaceae to Umbelliferae. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  5. WorldWideMetaMuseum - Le specie vegetali rare e interessanti: diffusione, significato, pregio (June, 2011)
  6. Istituto Comprensivo Statale di Ponte in Valtellina (June, 2011)
  7. Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Image credit

Sanguisorba dodecandra  
Sanguisorba dodecandra

© Marco Moretti

Marco Moretti


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