wild ginger

Asarum canadense (wild ginger) is a beautiful shade plant most known for its distinct foliage. It also has small purple flowers hidden beneath its leaves at ground level in April and May. The bell-shaped flowers eventually form pods which hold the seeds.

Wild ginger is native to North America, from Manitoba to North Carolina. A low growing plant that slowly spreads as a ground-cover, it is hardy to zones 4-9. The leaves are rough, about six inches wide, and in the shape of hearts.

Wild ginger has a mutualistic relationship with ants. This means that both species benefit from their interaction. The ant helps the seeds to disperse and be deposited in fertile soil and the ginger gives the ants food and nutrition. How this works is wild ginger seeds have elaiosomes attached on one end of the seeds which are tempting treats for ants. The ants take the seeds back to their homes where they eat the eliasome and discard the seed into a very fertile area near their home. This helps the seed to quickly grow and develop into a new wild ginger plant. Although similar in name to the spice, wild ginger is not edible and is not recommended for consumption. The plant is closely related to European ginger which has a glossy texture but it not native to North America. Wild ginger is a unique foliage plant that forms an impressive ground cover in the garden…

Botanical Name Asarum canadense
Common Name wild ginger
Family Aristolochiaceae
USDA Zone 4 to 9
Light Requirement Part Shade to Full Shade
Season(s) of interest Spring, Summer
Height and Spread
0.5-1ft x 1-1.5ft (15-30cm x 30-45cm)
Flower Color Dark Purple
Attracts Wildlife
Bees, Beetles and Flies, Hosts pipeline swallowtail butterfly caterpillars
Additional Information
Native range: Eastern and Midwestern North America
Location in Lurie Garden
North Dark Plate, West Meadow, Bird Border – Columbus