Remember to join us in the Horton Park community gardens tomorrow, Saturday, from 9:00 to 11:00 am when we will be raking and clipping, cleaning up the gardens to get ready for spring! I visited the gardens today, and this early spring is showing itself in the park. In the prairie garden on Hamline and Minnehaha, the prairie smoke is in bloom, and the pussytoes have flower buds. In our shade garden, the bloodroot and wild ginger have flowers.
Featured plant of the month: wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
If you have never taken the time to get down on your knees and look at wild ginger flowers, you've missed a treat. Wild ginger is in the Aristolochiaceae, or birthwort, family. The most visible part of the flowers is the elongated sepals - there are 3 of them, spreading and sometimes twisted, and colored a rich dark red. The flowers grow close to the ground, where they are pollinated by beetles. The plants are easily identifiable by the thick, hairy, heart-shaped leaves. Wild ginger spreads easily by rhizomes (which are stems that creep along the ground). The rhizomes smell a bit like ginger, though the plants are not related to the ginger we buy in the store. It is possible to make a candy or spice from the rhizomes of wild ginger by cutting them into short sections, boiling them for an hour, then simmering them in a sugar syrup for 20 minutes, then separating them and drying them. (But please don't dig up the plants in the garden!). Wild ginger grows in rich mesic forests with lots of shade. Look for them in sugar maple-basswood-red oak forests, such as those in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park or on north-facing slopes in Frontenac State Park. They are easy to grow in shade gardens and are readily available from many native landscaping shops. Here is a link to the University of Wisconsin herbarium website page that has great pictures of this lovely plant.