Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wild Ginger

Flowers:  Purplish brown to greenish-yellow, solitary bell shaped flowers with 3 flaring lobes that taper to long points; often concealed by leaves.

Fruits:  Fleshy capsules; seeds several, egg-shaped, with prominent fleshy appendage.

Ecology:  Rich bottomlands, moist, shaded forest, frequently in thick leaf mould that partly hides the flowers; common at low to middle elevations.

NOTES: The whole plant, when crushed, has a strong smell of lemon-ginger.  The roots can be eaten fresh or dried and ground as a ginger substitute.  • It has been reported that the fungus gnats deposit eggs in the throats of the flowers, but when the larvae eat the flowers, they are poisoned and die (Meeuse and Morris 1984). • The Nuxalk made a tea from wild-ginger root which was drunk for stomach pains. It was applied as a poultice for headaches, intestinal pains and knee pains.  It is known to have antibiotic properties.  The Sechelt boiled the leaves, crushed them and put them in bath water or rubbed them directly on the painful limb for arthritis.  The Squamish chewed the leaves and swallowed the juice for tuberculosis.  They and the Stl'atl'imx and Saanich used wild ginger as a good-luck charm and a protective wash when bathing.  The Skagit used the leaves in a medicinal preparation for tuberculosis.  The Skokomish drank the leaf tea in quantity as an emitic and to settle the stomach. • The word 'ginger' dates back to the 13th century and means 'horn-root' or 'root with a horn shape,' and it has generally been applied to plants with this particular flavour or smell. 

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