ASARUM CANADENSE – WILD GINGER
Asarum Canadense is native to the forests, yards and gardens of eastern North America. It is found from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic Coast, and from southeastern Canada south to approximately the fall line in the southeastern United States. Spreading through rhizomes, it grows best in rich soils and prefers dappled to full shade.
Wild ginger is not a true ginger but gained the name because the root makes an excellent ginger substitute and the leaves smell of ginger when crushed. (Though it is said to have been used medicinally by Native Americans and European settlers, some sources describe the leaves as quite toxic, to both skin and the digestive system.)
Lewis and Clark mentioned wild ginger in their journals. While camping along the Lolo Trail, Lewis wrote:
Pott's legg which has been much swolen and inflamed for several days is much better this evening and gives him but little pain. we applyed the pounded roots and leaves of the wild ginger & from which he found great relief.HM-M-M, I WONDER
Even at first glance, Asarum Canadense is a beautiful thing. Usually found as a thick, perennial ground cover, each plant has two satiny, dark green, heart-shaped leaves, about the size of one’s hand, on six- to ten-inch hairy stems. They have a distinctive vein pattern which subtly puckers their surface.
Very nice. But the true wonder of wild ginger— as with many of the wonders I celebrate in my writing—lies hidden to first glances. Curious? Well then, stay tuned, my friends…
(TO BE CONTINUED)