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The heart-shaped, dark green leaves of this deciduous groundcover form a lush cloak that conceals pot-bellied, maroon-colored flowers with flared tips. Also known as Canadian wild ginger, this plant  is native to the rich, moist woodlands of eastern and central North America and is common throughout Ohio. Each plant consists of two large, silky leaves and a single bell-shaped flower that dangles near the ground. The rhizomes spread slowly just beneath the surface of the soil to form a dense network that helps with erosion. Wild ginger thrives in shade and average to moist conditions. It does best in rich, acidic soils, but it adapts to amended clay and other soil types and tolerates drought once established. This is definitely a plant for the shadier areas of the landscape, and it’s especially useful as a replacement for grass under trees. If it receives too much afternoon sun, the leaves will wither and eventually die. Be sure to provide water if your plants are receiving extra sunlight.


Wild ginger requires very little maintenance when it’s in the right spot, and it spreads reliably yet nonaggressively. It improves its odds for survival by producing elaiosomes, or fatty appendages, on its seeds. Ants collect the seeds and return to their nests to feed the nutritious snacks to their young, leaving the seeds to germinate. Gardeners can partner with ants for propagation by harvesting ripe seeds in mid to late summer and scattering the seeds near an anthill. Early spring or fall are the best times to divide and transplant wild ginger.


According to “Nature Guys: Wild Ginger,” a podcast originating from the Cincinnati Nature Center, studies conclusively show that wild ginger’s flowers are self-pollinating. As the anthers mature, they form a particular shape that puts them in the perfect position to self-pollinate. Previously, it was believed that flies and beetles were the main pollinators because the red color of the low-lying flowers mimics the thawing carcass of an animal in early spring. However, wild ginger flowers don’t emit the unpleasant odor of other carrion-type flowers. One theory is that the color and location of the flowers are vestigial remnants of pollinating strategies that the plant no longer needs.


Although plants in the Birthwort (Aristolochiaceae) family contain a toxic substance called aristolochic acid, the roots have been used for centuries to flavor foods in the same manner that we use culinary ginger (Zingiber officinale). Sources differ on the safety of using A. Canadense as a food substance (see Edible Uses below). The roots also have a long history of medicinal use. Researchers have identified two antibiotic compounds in the plant, which supports its traditional use in treating wounds (K.P. Prabhakaran Nair, The Agronomy and Economy of Turmeric and Ginger, 2013).


Native habitats include shady woodlands, ravines, and slopes. Use in woodland, shade, and rain gardens. Plant it under trees, as a border, or in a container on a shaded patio. Companion plants include wild columbine, ferns, foamflower, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and other spring flowering plants. Like ferns, wild ginger pairs well with spring ephemerals.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows 6-12” tall and 6-8” wide.


Needs part or full shade to thrive. Foliage browns in full sun.


Prefers average to moist, well-drained, loose, acidic soils. Tolerates wet soils and occasional drought once established.


Solitary, urn-shaped, 1” flower grows on a white-haired stem at the base of the plant from April-May. Reddish-brown flower has 3 triangular, spreading lobes with pointed tips that curve outwards. Rounded, hairy base of the calyx has 6 chambers that contain rows of seeds that ripen and disperse in mid-summer.  


Short stem branches into 2 long, hairy petioles, each with 1 leaf. Leaves are 3-5” long, 4” wide, and deeply indented at the base. Upper surface is slightly shiny and hairy, and lower surface is covered with fine, white hairs.


Rhizomes are yellowish with wrinkled, brown tips that are whitish, fragrant, and spicy on the inside.


Wildlife Value:

Host plant for larvae of the bold-feathered grass moth pictured here. 


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Native Americans used the root to treat digestive ailments, flatulence, fevers, and sore throats. They were also used as a poultice on skin sores.


Sources differ on whether or not to consume wild ginger. Native Americans have a long tradition of using the plant in food, and many current chefs and foragers continue to consume wild ginger. Chef/writer/forager Hank Shaw explains how wild ginger earned a toxic reputation and provides guidelines for those interested in consuming the plant. In short, the safest method of preparation is steeping in hot water. Read more at


Warning: Some herbal products contain aristolochic acids. The National Cancer Institute warns that drinking or eating these products may result in kidney damage and cancer.


Caution: Touching this plant can cause skin irritation in some people.

Ginger, Wild, Asarum canadense

Excluding Sales Tax
Ready for Pickup Late Spring
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