Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) in the Wild Gingers Database

Common names:
Give a thumbs up Wild Ginger
Give a thumbs up Canadian Wild Ginger
Give a thumbs up Ginger Root
Give a thumbs up Heart Snakeroot
Give a thumbs up Catfoot
Give a thumbs up Asarabacca
Give a thumbs up False Colt's Foot
Give a thumbs up Snake Root
Give a thumbs up Canadian Snakeroot
Give a thumbs up Indian Ginger

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Herb/Forb
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Partial or Dappled Shade
Partial Shade to Full Shade
Water Preferences: Wet Mesic
Dry Mesic
Soil pH Preferences: Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Neutral (6.6 – 7.3)
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 3 -40 °C (-40 °F) to -37.2 °C (-35)
Maximum recommended zone: Zone 7b
Plant Height: 6 to 12 inches
Plant Spread: 2 feet and more
Leaves: Deciduous
Other: 2 leaves emerge from each rhizome tip. They are dark green, heart-shaped, hairy and leathery with a shiny surface, and 6-8 inches across.
Fruit: Other: Three-chambered pods containing many brown seeds with elaiosomes, growths that are eaten by ants
Fruiting Time: Summer
Flowers: Showy
Flower Color: Russet
Other: bell-shaped
Bloom Size: Under 1"
Flower Time: Spring
Underground structures: Rhizome
Uses: Groundcover
Culinary Herb
Medicinal Herb
Will Naturalize
Edible Parts: Roots
Eating Methods: Tea
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Rabbit Resistant
Toxicity: Leaves are poisonous
Roots are poisonous
Other: Root is poisonous due to aristolochic acid if eaten in large quantities.
Propagation: Seeds: Stratify seeds: Seeds need a warm moist period (65-70 F; 18-20 C), then a cold moist period (25-40 F; -4 to 4 C), and finally a cool moist period (40-50 F; 5-10 C) for germination.
Suitable for wintersowing
Sow in situ
Other info: Readily self-seeds.
Propagation: Other methods: Division
Pollinators: Beetles

Masses seen on a Botanical Society field trip

The Top 25 Herbs, Selected by ATP MembersThe Top 25 Herbs, Selected by ATP Members
February 15, 2014

Let's open Herbs week with a look at the most popular herbs, as determined by the number of individuals who have posted comments and photos to the herb entries in our database.

(Full article7 comments)
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Posted by jmorth (central Illinois) on Dec 11, 2011 5:26 PM

The 1 inch (across) flower lacks petals. It has 3 pointed sepals that curve backwards.
Wild ginger likes moist woods, where it is likely to form dense, sometimes huge colonies.
Settlers used the root as a spice substitute for tropical ginger. It was used in frontier medicine to treat various ailments. The Mesquakie Indians used it extensively as a seasoning. They also thought its use when eating an animal that had died of unknown causes eliminated the danger of poisoning.

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Posted by Catmint20906 (Maryland - Zone 7a) on Aug 22, 2014 7:03 PM

Ginger Root (Asarum canadense) is a larval host plant for the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. Native to eastern North America, it puts out purple blooms in early to mid spring, and prefers medium to moist soil in part to full shade. It spreads slowly by rhizomes to create an attractive ground cover in shady areas.

Native Americans used A. canadense's rhizomes as a medicinal herb and a seasoning, but although the smell is similar to ginger (Zingiber officinale), it should not be used as a substitute due to carcinogenic concerns. Its aromatic distillate, Canadian snakeroot oil, has been used as a fragrance in oils, salves, and potpourri mixes.

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Posted by SongofJoy (Clarksville, TN - Zone 6b) on Jan 15, 2012 4:40 PM

There are just under a dozen species of wild gingers, or Little Brown Jugs, which are native to the eastern United States. They grow in rich organic soil shaded by tall trees and shrubs. The evergreen species are in the genus Hexastylis, and the only non-evergreen one is Asarum. All have interesting brown, jug-shaped flowers that are attached at soil level. The leaves of Deciduous Wild Ginger are bright green, heart-shaped, slightly fuzzy, and large (up to 6 inches across), and it is the only native ginger that loses its leaves in the winter. However, it is also the fastest spreader and makes a great groundcover in good soil in the shade. It grows to about 6 inches tall.

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Posted by Chillybean (Iowa - Zone 5a) on Aug 12, 2015 3:50 PM

I planted some of this in a shaded area next to the house, spring of 2014. The dormant roots grew and even flowered that first year. This year, I seemed to have lost some and I never found any flowers. A friend told me to just give it time, and I may end up with too many.

I enjoy native plants, but this is a special one. You have to get down low to find the unusual blossoms. I like the family name of this plant, Birthwort. This might come from the fact that the juice from the stem was used long ago for inducing childbirth.

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Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Mar 17, 2018 9:28 AM

This Canadian Wild-Ginger is an easy, somewhat slow growing groundcover plant. I have seen some growing wild in rich, moist soils of the woods of southeast Pennsylvania. Its native range is from New Brunswick through southern Quebec & Ontario into southern Manitoba down into Oklahoma to northern Louisiana to Georgia, growing in various wooded situations. Its best pH range is 6 to 7, but can go over and under some. It is called Wild-Ginger because the rhizome roots emit a ginger-like odor and they can be cooked to have a ginger substitute, though it is warned that the foliage is toxic and it would not be good to eat much of the roots that have some toxic also. It is a larval host for the Pipeline Swallowtail Butterfly. It is in the Pipeline Family and not a true Ginger. Prairie Nursery in central Wisconsin notes that it is a good groundcover plant to overcome the invasive European Garlic-Mustard and that it can suppress evil Buckthorn seedlings and other invasive plants. Plant about a foot apart to form a solid groundcover. This species is sold by most native plant nurseries and by a good number of conventional nurseries with a diverse selection of perennials. I see it occasionally in gardens and landscapes.

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