Sunday, September 24, 2006

Asarum... Uh Liked 'Em.

Wild gingers (asarums) are one of those little woodland plants that are so modest, that few gardeners are aware of the beauty and variety of gingers that can be grown in the shady garden; but to see them is to like them. This time of year they sort of pop out of hiding, and in the clear fall air their mottled, waxy foliage is seen to best effect. Pictured is Asarum naniflora, native to only a few counties in the high piedmont of the Carolinas, and on the threatened list in its native haunts. Many of the asarums, including naniflora and all of the other evergreen species native to the S.E., are now actually placed in a seperate genus, hexastylis (meaning six styles). They sure don't look any different than any other ginger to me, but in fact, hexastylis has "connate sepals, distinct styles, nonappendiculate anthers, and superior or partly inferior ovaries"... so I guess that settles that! Both hexastylis and asarum are in a small family, which also includes the viney Dutchman's pipe. I have my Asarum (Hexastylis) naniflora growing under a red cedar tree, where it seems quite happy, surrounded by some small epimediums, and an Asian species of ginger. Many (but not all) of the semi-hardy Asian gingers seem to grow fine in our garden for a few years, then just disappear... one day they are there, and the next time you look around, they're gone. I'm working on this mystery, but my previous theory of alien asarum abduction (AAA), has gone nowhere. In contrast, most of the native asarums are quite lusty and persistent. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go check the surveillence camera on my Asian gingers. Posted by Picasa

Dry shade?
Jenn... they like reasonable moisture in the spring while they are growing, then will tolerate dryness the rest of the year... they need good drainage.
From here, the foliage looks an awful lot like cyclamen foliage. As for disappearing, I had some native ginger that found itself in the path of a vole tunnel, and then was no more.
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