Plant Name Wild Ginger
Scientific Name Asarum Canadense
Family Birthwort
Plant Type Perennial
Start of Blooming Season April
End of Blooming Season May
-3- Sample images submitted by MIROFOSS
-0- Sample images submitted by others

Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense, is a is a herbaceous perennial plant in the birthwort family. Wild Ginger forms dense colonies in the under story of rich deciduous forests throughout its native range in eastern North America, from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic Coast, and from southeastern Canada south to approximately the fall line in the southeastern United States. Wild Ginger is protected as a state threatened species in Maine. The word "asarum" is the Latin and Greek name for wild ginger. The species name "canadense" means of Canada.

There is currently no commercial applications for wild ginger.

Within the realm of rational and holistic medicine, Wild Ginger was widely used by many North American tribes as a medicinal herb. It is still occasionally used in modern herbal use when it is harvested in autumn and dried for later use. Wild Ginger is used in the treatment of chronic chest complaints, asthma, coughs, colds, dropsy, painful spasms of the bowels and stomach, scant or painful menstruation, and infantile convulsions. The fresh leaves are applied as a poultice to wounds and inflammations, whilst a decoction or salve is applied to sores. The root contains antibiotic substances effective against broad-spectrum bacteria and fungi. Wild ginger also contains aristolochic acid, which has antitumor activity. The root and rhizome were slowly boiled in a small quantity of water for a long time and the resulting liquid drunk as a contraceptive by the women of one North American tribe.

Please note that MIROFOSS does not suggest in any way that plants should be used in place of proper medical and psychological care. This information is provided here as a reference only.

The underground stem and the flowers of the wild ginger plant are used as a ginger substitute. The root, especially when quite dry, have a pungent, aromatic smell resembling a mix of mild pepper and ginger. The root is best harvested in autumn but is available through out the entire year. Wild ginger can be dried for later use.

Wild Ginger is a low growing perennial that is most suitable for : light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). Wild ginger prefers moist soil.

Soil Conditions
Soil Moisture

Wild Ginger is a deciduous perennial which grows to a full height of between 5cm to 30cm tall at a slow rate. Wild Ginger has a distinctly shaped pair of cordate leaves approximately 5cm to 15cm in size with a ciliate (fine haired) leaf margin. The stems of wild also contain small soft hairs which collect dust and other debris during the growing season. The large leaves of the wild ginger plant usually overshadow the flowers of the plant. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are radially symmetrical and usually a reddish-brown or greenish-brown colour with small hairs found within the flower itself. Wild ginger flowers grow very low to the ground and can sometimes be overlooked. The flowers are 2cm to 4cm long with three sepals which are petal-like and pointed. Each bloom contains 12 pistils. After flowering, wild ginger produces small beige, wrinkly and oval shaped, seeds used for propagation.

Plant Height 5cm to 30cm
Habitat Rich woodlands
Leaves Cordate
Leaf Margin Ciliate
Leaf Venation Cross-venulate
Stems Fine hairs on stems
Flowering Season April to May
Flower Type Radially Symmetrical
Flower Colour Brown
Pollination Flies
Flower Gender Flowers are hermaphrodite and the plants are self-fertile
Fruit Hard oval seeds
USDA Zone 3A (-37°C to -40°C) cold weather limit

The following health hazards should be noted when handling or choosing a location to plant wild ginger:

The leaves of wild ginger are poisonous

-Click here- or on the thumbnail image to see an artist rendering, from The United States Department of Agriculture, of wild ginger. (This image will open in a new browser tab)

-Click here-or on the thumbnail image to see a magnified view, from The United States Department of Agriculture, of the seeds created by wild ginger for propagation. (This image will open in a new browser tab)

Wild ginger can be referenced in certain current and historical texts under the following four names:

Wild ginger can be translated into the following select languages:

Arabic الزنجبيل البرية Bulgarian   Chinese (Sim) 野姜
Croatian   Czech   Danish  
Dutch   Esperanto Sovaĝa zingibro Estonian  
Finnish   French   German  
Greek   Hebrew   Hungarian  
Italian zenzero selvaggio Japanese ワイルドジンジャー Korean 야생 생강
Punjabi ਜੰਗਲੀ ਅਦਰਕ Lithuanian Laukiniai imbieras Norwegian  
Persian زنجبیل وحشی Polish Dziki Imbir Portuguese  
Romanian ghimbir sălbatic Russian Дикий Имбирь Slovak  
Spanish   Swedish   Tagalog  
Turkish   Ukrainian дикий Імбир Vietnamese Gừng hoang dã

The MIROFOSS database offers free printable garden tags for personal and non-profit use. These tags can be used to properly identify plant samples in a garden. Click on the tags shown on the the screen or -click here- to download a full size jpeg image for a wild ginger identification tag; which can be printed on paper or used with a plastic laser printer.

What's this?
This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to MIROFOSS articles. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by smart phone cameras. This QR Code is unique to this MIROFOSS article.

What can I do with it?
You can copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, web site, magazines, or newspaper so smart phone users can scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to this specific article.

Description Gleason, H. A., and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. Second Edition. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.
Folklore MacKinnon, Kershaw, Arnason, Owen, Karst, Hamersley, Chambers. 2009. Edible & Medicinal Plants Of Canada
ISBN 978-1-55105-572-5
Biology Dickinson, T.; Metsger, D.; Bull, J.; & Dickinson, R. (2004) ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers of Ontario. Toronto:Royal Ontario Museum,
Image Rendering USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Environment National Audubon Society. Field Guide To Wildflowers (Eastern Region): Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40232-2
Physical Identification National Audubon Society. Field Guide To Wildflowers (Eastern Region): Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40232-2
January 30, 2016 The last time this page was updated
©2021 MIROFOSS™ Foundation