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ASARUM canadense

Image of Asarum canadense

James H. Schutte

Family

Aristolochiaceae

Botanical Name

ASARUM canadense

Plant Common Name

Canadian Wild Ginger

General Description

By far one of the best native herbaceous groundcovers for shade, Canadian wild ginger creates a lush, thick mat of heart-shaped leaves that shine from spring to fall. This very hardy woodland wildflower exists in fertile hardwood forests across the whole of eastern North America. As its common name suggests, its long, somewhat fleshy roots have a pungent, ginger-like taste and were valued for food and medicine by both Native Americans and early colonists. In some parts of eastern Canada they still make medicinal tea from the dried, powdered Asarum root.

This is an herbaceous perennial, which means its leaves are not evergreen but die back in winter only to reappear anew in spring. The deep green, rounded, heart-shaped leaves have hairy leaf stems and form dense foliar mats. These spread quickly, but not too aggressively, via fleshy rhizomes. Hairy, three-petaled, bell-shaped flowers of brownish-purple appear along the soil line in spring. These cannot be seen from above but have a foetid fragrance that attracts ground-dwelling beetles, which pollinate the blooms. Bulbous, inedible fruits follow.

Canadian wild ginger performs best in partial to full shade and fertile, evenly moist soil with a neutral to slightly acid pH. Plant this perennial with the expectation that it will spread. It is ideal for shaded woodland gardens, path edges or any shady border in need of lush, attractive foliar cover. This is the larval host plant of the Pipeline swallowtail butterfly, so it’s also ideal for butterfly gardens.

Roots can be harvested any time of year for consumption but are freshest in spring. The foliage irritates the skin of some people, so use gloves when harvesting or dividing this plant.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    4, 5, 6, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade, Full Shade

  • Height

    4"-6" / 10.2cm - 15.2cm

  • Width

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring

  • Native To

    Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, North-Central United States, Central United States, South-Central United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Mat-forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Purple, Burgundy, Brown

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edging, Groundcover, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall, Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes