Interesting Plant: Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum)

Starting a series within a series, I will be highlighting shade plants that grow well underneath trees, especially California Live Oak. I have a deep shade area beneath many trees here in my own garden and i am constantly looking for plants that can help green this area. — Douglas

A good ground cover that could cope with my trees would be much appreciated, so I am going to look into Wild Ginger more deeply. There are large areas that could benefit from its spearing habit and the lack of maintenance required for the plant would be nice, too. 

Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum)

Asarum caudatum 10993.JPG

By Walter SiegmundOwn work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2176503

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Asarum caudatum (British Columbia wild gingerwestern wild ginger, or long-tailed wild ginger) is native to rich moist forests of western North America from British Columbia to California and as far east as western Montana. It an evergreen with flowers that develop from March to August.[citation needed] The flowers are distinct, hirsute(hairy), cup-shaped, and brown-purple to green-yellow which terminate in three, long, gracefully curved lobes, often concealed by leaves. The long rhizomes give rise to persistent reniform (kidney/heart shaped) leaves. Leaves are found in colonies or clusters as the rhizome spreads, forming mats.[3] The leaves emit a ginger aroma when rubbed.[4]

Caudatum comes from the Latin cauda meaning tail. This refers to the tail-like shape of the flower’s calyx.

Asarum caudatum is found in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Northern California,[5] Idaho, and Montana[3] in moist, shaded environments. It is a typical herb found in the understory of mixed conifer forests under 2,200 feet in elevation, and is often a dominant plant.[6][7] It reproduces rhizomatously, meaning many mats are formed by oneclonal plant connected by a rhizome. A. caudatum can also reproduce sexually, with its seeds dispersed by ants. Their flowers are pollinated by flies. However, cross-pollination is rare. Ants are attracted by a fatty appendage attached to the seed.[8]

The ants carry the entire package back to their colonies. The seed is often dropped outside the nest once the ant realizes only the appendage is edible. Due to the costs of producing seeds with an appendage to attract ants, it is more energetically favorable for the plant to reproduce rhizomatously. — Wikipedia

More information on Asarum caudatum:

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Previously in the Interesting Plant series: 

Interesting Plant is a series from A Gardener’s Notebook blog and podcast that highlights the most interesting plants I find in my Internet and real-world travels — Douglas

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