Sheraya Martin BI 252L, W1800 9 March 2011 TA: Shelley Mason

Asarum caudatum (Western Wild Ginger)
Asarum caudatum is an angiosperm native to Oregon and commonly known as western wild ginger or long-tailed wild ginger. It is not a true ginger plant, but rather commonly named wild ginger due to its spicy, ginger like smell. This plant is of the Aristolochiaceae family, and one of six species in the Asarum genus. It is found in moist woodland environments, preferring acidic soil types. It is commonly initially noticed by its large, broad, heart shaped leaves, and secondarily by its relatively small and unique purple flowers, referred to as Dutchmen’s Pipe flowers by the Wild Ginger Farm in Oregon. The A. caudatum has stem leaves that range from 2” – 6”, found in pairs at the apical node of each leaf stem. The stems and flower exteriors are covered in short but visible trichomes. Their flowers are a purple color, with a deep central well and long tail like extensions of the three petal lobes. The flower is produced below the leaves, close to the ground. It releases an odor unattractive to the human olfactory sense, but extremely attractive to flies, the primary pollinator of the western wild ginger. Each flower contains male and female reproductive organs. The reproductive organs are low lying, protected in the well of the flower. After fertilization has occurred many seeds are released on to the ground to be dispersed primarily by ants. The seed coat cells secret a unique ant attracting oil. An ant will take a seed back to its colony for food, consuming the seed appendages, then discarding the seed itself- thus efficiently increasing the habitat area of the western wild ginger (Gucker 2004). It is important to note that this plant has rhizomes, from which it can create new plants as another method of reproduction. The western wild ginger habitat is in temperate woodland areas, with rich, moist and slightly acidic top soil. They are a plant of the forest understory and thus prefer shaded areas, as provided by the branches and leaves of taller plants, especially trees. In commercial and residential areas this plant is used as an aesthetic ground cover (Plant Oregon, The Nursery on Wager Creek 2011). The plant does best in moderate to cold conditions, with the ability to withstand below freezing temperatures (Wild Ginger Farm 2011), although not for long durations. A. caudatum is a perennial plant. Seeds tend to germinate in the spring time, and flower in the late summer. This makes the seeds an attractive food source to ants, since the seeds drop at a time when the availability of food is becoming scare and the colonies are preparing to stock pile foods for the winter season. According to Plants For A Future the wild ginger can be used medicinally. While appropriate medical guidance is suggested, it is noted that the whole plant is an analgesic. The root and leaves have been known to be made into tonics and teas, used to treat; gastrointestinal tract symptoms, headaches, boils, toothaches, colic, joint pain, and skin infections. It can also be used as a culinary ginger substitute. Page 1 of 2

Primary methods of population decrease of the wild ginger are predation by slugs and destruction of forest canopy and other shading plants. Canopy and other shading plant destruction is often a result of fires and clear cutting. According to studies cited by the U.S. Forest Service wild ginger populations were greatly reduced if not diminished in post burn areas that affected the canopy density and allowed for more light to reach the understory where this plant lives. A. caudatum is of the Tracheobionta subkingdom, Magnoliophyta division, Magnoliopsida class, and Aristolochiales family. This simply means that the wild ginger native to Oregon is a vascular, flowering plant that is dichotomous and not of the true ginger family as its name would suggest. Currently there is no indication that this species is threatened. References Plant Oregon, The Nursery on Wagner Creek (2010). Asarum caudatum - Wild Ginger. Retrieved from Plant Oregon, The Nursery on Wagner Creek: http://store.plantoregon.com/prostores/servlet/Detail?searchpath=42f146c9edd05828ef5f&category=A ll+Plants&start=51&total=354&no=49 Gucker, Corey L. 2004. Asarum caudatum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis [ ]. Wild Ginger Farm, Oregon (2010). Asarum - Wild Ginger. Retrieved from Wild Ginger Farm, Oregon: http://www.wildgingerfarm.com/Asarum.htm U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Science (2010). Asarum caudatum - Plant Profile. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Science: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ASCA2 Portland Nursery (2010). ASARUM CAUDATUM: Wild Ginger. Retrieved from Portland Nursery: http://www.portlandnursery.com/plants/nativePicks/asarum.shtml Plants For A Future (2010). Asarum caudatum Wild Ginger. Retrieved from Plants For A Future: http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Asarum+caudatum

Page 2 of 2

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful