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What is it? Local extension agents answer questions about mystery plants

POSTED: July 18, 2014 1:30 a.m.
Times staff/

Native wildflower trillium

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Kidney leaf rosin weed

What is it? This plant is called kidney leaf rosin weed (Silphium compositum michx). It is a native, perennial plant.

Should it be there? Everything found about this plant indicates it prefers infertile, dry sites in sandy soils. It is seen more often in the coastal plain of Georgia, but is found in the piedmont and mountain areas of the Southeast.

Is it common? Somewhat common, but it can be typically found in areas of sun to partial sun. It can be seen in habitats that are open, pine and oak forests, sandy soils, fields, roadsides and meadows.

How big will it get in my yard? It will form a set of leaves at ground level 2 feet across. Eventually, it will send up a flower stem 4 to 6 feet tall and form 1- to 2-inch yellow flowers.

Does it need special care? Once established, no special care is needed.

Where can I get more of it? It is propagated by seed. You might be able to buy seeds online from companies specializing in native plants.


Native wildflower trillium

What is it? Southeastern herbaceous perennial called trillium. Trillium is a delicate novelty woodland plant found throughout the Eastern United States, including Georgia. It has many different species and colors. Only 20 or so species are native to the Southeast.

Trilliums are aptly named for their triads of three green sepals, petals and leaves.

Should it be there? Yes, yes and yes! Trillium’s merit and use is prized among native flower enthusiasts. In many states, it is illegal to pick trilliums. If they are disturbed or picked, it can take up to seven years for them to grow back. Trilliums bloom mostly in April and May.

Is it common? Trilliums can be found in woodland understory areas. It can be found on shady woodland trails and rich woods from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee to southwest Georgia and eastern Alabama. If you find this plant in your woodland landscape, consider yourself lucky.

Wildflower and nature lovers seek trilliums in parks and preserves and people love to discover the beautiful little plant.

How big will it get in my yard? Trillium is a small plant usually growing from 12 inches to 24 inches tall. Trillium leaves are a whorl of three solid or mottled green leaves usually 2 to 5 inches across with three solitary petals and three sepals.

Does it need special care? Trillium patches can be planted from seed or rhizomes and can take up to 17 years to get well established in areas. Trilliums prefer rich, moist soil with lots of organic material. They grow well beneath tree canopies with a soil pH near neutral or slightly acidic. Do not plant in areas with high deer populations.

Interesting tidbits about trillium: The perennial rootstock of trillium was called birthroot by indigenous Native Americans and early colonists. Its medicinal purposes were used for controlling symptoms associated with childbirth. Trilliums were celebrated by Shakespeare in his talks, songs and rhymes in a "Midsummer Night’s Dream."

Where can I get more of it? Through the Georgia Native Plant Society,


Wild ginger


What is it? Wild ginger (Asarum arifolia) is a tough little native woodland evergreen ginger. It has a silver pattern on glossy dark green heart to arrow-shaped leaves.

Should it be there? Yes! The evergreen ginger is a perennial that is versatile and easy to grow for a woodland shade garden as a groundcover or used as a mass planting with outstanding foliage interest.

Is it common? Yes. The wild ginger can be found the world over. Most of them are cultivated for their ornamental value. They are native to the shaded woodlands of North America and parts of Asia.

How big will it get in my yard? Wild gingers are noted for their slow to moderate growth. However, they will spread as a groundcover under trees or in a naturalized setting.

Does it need special care? Wild ginger prefers a humus-rich, acidic, moist, well-drained soil for optimum growth. The plant thrives in full to partial shade and will burn if planted in full sun. The ginger likes an area protected from harsh winter winds.

Where can I get more of them? Division is the best way. The plants can be propagated by seed, but they can take up to two years to germinate. Check retail mail order sources of wild gingers. Online sources are also available in the Southeast ranging from Georgia to Oregon.

Is wild ginger invasive? No, this native is not considered invasive or aggressive in its growth habit.

Is it poisonous? Wild ginger contains the constituent aristolochic acid. The flower and stems are not edible and are considered poisonous.

How did it get there? Mostly spread by gardeners, birds and water sources.

Interesting tidbit: Wild ginger is not the same as the culinary ginger used in Asian dishes and ginger ale. But its fleshy roots do have a spicy aroma and its dried roots can be burned as incense.

Folklore: One group of early American settlers (witch hunters) called wild ginger "wartchase" and believed witches used it to rid themselves of warts so they would not be recognized.





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