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Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger)
Sherman, Doug

Asarum canadense

Asarum canadense L.

Canadian Wild Ginger, Wild Ginger

Aristolochiaceae (Birthwort Family)

Synonym(s): Asarum acuminatum, Asarum canadense var. acuminatum, Asarum canadense var. ambiguum, Asarum canadense var. reflexum, Asarum reflexum, Asarum rubrocinctum

USDA Symbol: asca

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

This low, colony-forming perennial grows only 4-8 in. high. Each plant bears a pair of large, velvety, heart-shaped leaves. Growing at ground level in the crotch between 2 leafstalks is a single darkish red-brown to green-brown flower. The solitary flower is at ground level, hidden below the leaves. A similar plant with greenish-purple flowers, Hexastylis arifolia, has more triangular, evergreen leaf blades.

The fleshy rootstock, which has a strong, gingery flavor, can create a crowded network on the woodland floor, resulting in a dense ground cover of Wild ginger.


From the Image Gallery

28 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Cordate
Leaf Margin: Entire
Leaf Apex: Acute
Leaf Base: Cordate
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 8 inches tall.
Leaf: Medium green
Flower: Flowers apetalous. Stamens 12. Ovary inferior
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Green , Purple , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: MB , NB , ON , QC
Native Distribution: Que. & N.B. to Ont. & MN, s. to FL & LA. Eastern North America, Zones 3 to 7
Native Habitat: Woodlands

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8) , Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Soil Description: Moist, rich soils. pH of 6 to 7 best.
Conditions Comments: Doesn't grow in the high summer heat of Zone 8.


Use Ornamental: Good, low groundcover for Eastern woodlands and shaded landscapes.
Use Food: The root of this spring flower has a strong ginger-like odor and, when cooked with sugar, can be used as a substitute for ginger. (Niering)
Warning: Touching this plant can cause skin irritation in some people.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly.


Propagation Material: Root Division , Seeds , Softwood Cuttings
Description: Summer cuttings and fall root division best. Slow from seed.
Seed Collection: Seeds ripen 4-6 weeks after the first flowers appear. The fruiting structure is essentially unchanged from that of the flowers. The grayish seeds are in the lower portion. Germination is reduced if the seeds are stored.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: A mulch of leaves in spring and fall is beneficial.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

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April 18, 2006
Have pine trees in front of house. No luck with the lawn around them....was told it's because of ground acidity. Any tips on how to get a lawn to grow there? If not, can you suggest some ground cover...
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National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Asarum canadense in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Asarum canadense in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Asarum canadense


Record Modified: 2014-08-06
Research By: TWC Staff

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