Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) is native to Ontario, and indeed, can be found throughout much of eastern North America. These ground-hugging plants favour the rich soils of moist forests. Wild Ginger produces interesting flowers, but unless you are prepared to kneel down and look closely, you won’t see them. The flowers are hidden under the leaves, at ground level, nestled at the base of the hairy leaf stems.
They’re odd little flowers. It isn’t known what insects might pollinate these blooms. However, the flowers have a back-up system and can self-pollinate. The flowers produce a seed pod, which splits open and discharges its seeds into the leaf litter of the forest. The seeds bear elaiosomes [Elaiosomes (Greek élaion “oil” and sóma “body”) are fleshy structures that are attached to the seeds of many plant species. The elaiosome is rich in lipids and proteins, and may be variously shaped. Many plants have elaiosomes that attract ants. Wikipedia] and ants have been recorded as carrying wild ginger seeds up to 35 meters across the forest.
But reproduction by seed is slow. Wild Ginger is a clonal species and reproduces primarily by spreading rhizomes. A sizeable patch of wild gingers are likely clones and all connected underground. Wild Ginger is not even distantly related to the ginger family (Zingiber), but takes its name from the ginger-like scent released from the rhizomes when they are scratched.
Wild Ginger makes a pleasing groundcover for shady gardens. Its round leaves are attractive, and the plants require little care. And if you care to look, the flowers are pretty cool too.