My favorite plant in the whole world is Wild Ginger. I first heard of this plant when I was a teen. It was mentioned in passing, and I was briefly curious, but didn’t know enough about it to really follow the curiosity. Next, in a botany class in college, I looked up from my notes to see a brief glimpse of a weird, three-petaled purple-brown flower with leaves that had veins in the shape of a lotus flower. The caption underneath: Asarum caudatum: Wild Ginger. My curiosity was immediately reignited. It was a slideshow of plants on campus, so as soon as I left class, I embarked on a mission to find it. I combed every inch of school grounds and there were no wild gingers to be found. After three months of obsessive searching, I gave up. Then, in the spring, I was walking across campus, when I saw a single leaf, lying on the sidewalk. There it was! Next to it was a muddy wheelbarrow track. I followed the track long enough to see that it was coming from the woods, but then the wheel marks ended. Armed with evidence that the plant existed, and a direction to look, I resumed my search. All through the spring, I spent hours upon hours exploring the woods, on a quest to find wild ginger. One day, I was sitting by a stream, collecting data about birds, when a beam of sunlight cut through the forest canopy, illuminating a patch of ground. There, in the spotlight, was the elusive patch of wild ginger! Since then, my love for the plant has only grown.
If you rub the leaves, they release a spicy, earthy smell. Like ginger and citrus and the forest. Historically, the roots have been used like culinary ginger, but only in small amounts. In larger doses it is an emetic. Its leaves contain antibacterial compounds and can be used as a poultice for wounds. Wild ginger is a rare plant to find though, so please let her grow unless you really need her!
By Manon McPeters