Genus of the Week
Week of June 22-28
This page has been created for people who want to learn more about plants, especially in the context of their taxonomy (Latin names, etc.). This is by no means an exhaustive list of all available Web resources on a particular genus.
Visit the Land of the Glandular Trichomes,
a microscopic look at plants in the Lamiaceae family.
This week's genus:
Family: Aristolochiaceae - The Birthwort Family
Number of Species: Approx. 100
Species in the genus Asarum are commonly referred to as the Wild Gingers, and the rhizomes
of many can actually be used as a ginger substitute. When used in cooking as a ginger substitute,
the desired amount is usually doubled. The compound asarin, derived from the root of
A. europaeum, resembles camphor. The flowers of plants in this genus are beautiful yet
odd, and several species are appreciated by gardeners. The seeds of Asarum are prized
by ants, which disperse the seeds after consuming its oil-carrying structure, termed an elaisome.
Here are a few links to images and descriptions of different Asarum species:
- View an image of A. shuttleworthii
(Mottled Wild Ginger) from the Botanical Gardens of the University of Durham.
- The Time/Life Virtual Garden Plant Encyclopedia has detailed descriptions and growing instructions
A. canadense (Canada Wild Ginger) and
A. europaeum (European Wild Ginger).
- Here is a photo of A. canadense
from Albion University.
- Stop by the Plant Delights web page for a look at several
hard-to-find species of Asarum. If you like what you see, order some!
- On the CyberPlantsman home page, Barry Glick has written about the genus Asarum as having
some of the most underused
plants with respect to horticulture.
- The University of Hawaii has an excellent photo of a
flowering A. caudatum.
- BoDD - the Botanical Dermatology Database, made available from the Department of Dermatology at the
University of Wales College of Medicine, provides information about how
species of Asarum can cause dermatitis.
- Herbalists will want to visit botanical.com to find out more about the
herbal properties of A. europaeum.
- Genders, Roy. Edible Wild Plants. New York: van der Marck Editions: 1988.
- Heywood, V.H., ed. Flowering Plants of the World. New York, Oxford University Press: 1993.
- Neiring, William A. and Nancy C. Olmstead., eds. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1979.
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