Recently, on my nature walks in Eliza Howell Park, I have been stopping to check out a wildflower that I have overlooked in the past. I am sure that I have walked past patches of 3- inch-high Wild Ginger dozens of times without noticing the small reddish flower at ground level.
The flower is easy to miss and miss it I did until Ruth Hart, the resource I turn to when I have questions about Eliza Howell plants, pointed it out to me.
Now that I know where to see the flower, I keep going back for additional looks. I am fascinated by a flower that grows so close to the ground, not stretching up like most other spring blooms.
It may be inconspicuous, but it is also distinctive, worth getting down to the ground for a close look. The flower grows on a short stem at the base of the two heart-shaped leaves. Magnified, the flower looks like this.
Wild Ginger grows like a ground cover, spread by rhizomes as well as by seed. When the flowers are hidden, as they tend to be, it is understandable that most of us walk without a second look.
Wild Ginger is common and widespread in Eastern North America. (This map is from the U.S Forest Service.)
The tubular or cup-like shape of the flower is sometimes called a jug, and one of the names for this plant is “little brown jug.” (The petals turn more brown as they age.)
The location at ground level, the shape of the flower, and the hairy appearance all contribute to the unusual nature of the flowering Wild Gonger.
i frequently learn something new about the flora or fauna of EHP. This week I am growing in knowledge – and in appreciation – of an inconspicuous fascinating flower.