Wild Ginger

Media
Photo of wild ginger flower
Safety Concerns
Name
Edible
Name
Skin irritating
Scientific Name
Asarum canadense
Family
Aristolochiaceae (birthworts)
Description

A low-growing, hairy plant, spreading from creeping underground stems. Flowers usually hidden by the leaves, arising from leaf axils, 3-parted, red-brown or purplish brown, with stiff, white hairs. Flowers emit a scent of decaying fruit. Blooms April-May. Leaves large, rounded or heart- or kidney-shaped, strongly veined, leathery with a shiny surface, hairy. Rhizomes fleshy, intertwined and branching; with stems not rising into the air.

Size
Height: to about 6 inches.
Where To Find
image of Wild Ginger distribution map
Statewide, but absent from the southeast lowlands and a few western counties.
Occurs on rich, wooded bottomland and upland slopes, banks and terraces of streams and rivers, in moist valleys and ravines, and at the bases of bluffs.
The roots have been used as a ginger substitute, and this plant was once used medicinally to treat several maladies. It is increasing in popularity as a shade-tolerant ground cover. Handling the plants may cause dermatitis in some people.
The odor and color of the flowers attract pollinating insects. It should be noted that our wild ginger is completely unrelated to true ginger, which is in the ginger family and which is more closely related to cannas, bananas, bird-of-paradise, and prayer-plants.
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About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!