Wild ginger is a low herbaceous plant. The stem consists of a branched creeping rhizome at or just below the soil surface. Soft-hairy leaves arise in pairs annually from rhizome branches. Petioles can be up to 20 cm long, elevating the 7—25 mm wide kidney-shaped leaf blades above the forest floor. Small flowers appear in the spring shortly after the leaves have expanded. Typically, one must push the leaves aside in order to glimpse the jug-like flowers. A single flower stalk appears between the paired leaf bases, but it is short and barely lifts the flower above the soil surface. Each flower consists of 3 fused sepals that enclose 12 stamens and a 3-lobed pistil; petals are absent. The fused sepals constitute a pale green bell-like tube that ranges from 8 – 16 mm long; their divergent tips are maroon to brown. In different populations, sepal tips can be remarkably variable in terms of orientation (reflexed or spreading), shape of the tapered point, and overall length which ranges 5 – 15 (or more) mm long. The stamens have separate filaments that extend as bristle-like points above the short pollen-bearing anthers. The stigma is coarsely and weakly 6-lobed atop a thickened style; ovary position is inferior by virtue of its fusion with the interior surface of the sepal tube. Appearance of the ovary changes little as it matures into a fleshy brown capsular fruit. Seeds are about 5 mm long and bear an oily elaiosome along one side.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2010, Virginia Native Plant Society. This article first appeared in Virginia Native Plant Society Brochure (2010), 1-3.

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.