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.
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
Size Notes: 3 to 5 inches high
Leaf: Medium green
Flower: Flowers apetalous. Stamens 12. Ovary inferior
Size Class: 0-1 ft.
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
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
Larval Host: Pipeline 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.