Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Plant of the week, Heartleaf or Arrowleaf Ginger (Hexastylis arifolia)

Pondering about what to write for this week's post yesterday, I was in the eastern Kentucky Mountains (yes the true mountains at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park - Stone Mountain) photographing Shillalah falls, and I thought about what provides color in the garden this time of year.  It was a beautiful, overcast day, just perfect for photographing waterfalls and there was really no color except for greens of the large leaf rhododendrons, Christmas fern, some still standing wood ferns, and Heartleaf Ginger. So the inspiration for this week's plant was quite natural for me as I sat and photographed the rushing water, heartleaf ginger (Christmas fern will be next week since it will be so close to Christmas).  I love this plant as a native, evergreen ground cover because this time of the year it stands out against the browns of the fallen tree leaves and has such a distinctive shape and mottled green color.  This lovely plant belongs to the birthwort family and like many members of this family, the roots can be used as a flavoring agent with a ginger like taste although not as strong as the cultivated varieties.  The plant grows a few inches tall and the brown urn shaped flowers appear from March through May at ground level or slightly below ground level and are pollinated by wasps, flies, and thrips with the seeds are dispersed by ants.  Hence, when found it is often found in clusters because the size of any population will be delineated by the home range of the dispersing ant species. This southeastern US species is quite common all throughout its range and occurs in acidic forest soils that range from moist to dry. You can grow this in the shade gardens throughout the state, even in limestone areas, as long as you provide it with highly organic, leaf mold soil (hence don't get rid of the leaves from the trees, let them fall and compost naturally).  I used to give my plants a shot of hollytone or miracid in the spring to perk it up. This species is very slow to reproduce from seed and when planting in the garden use large numbers to provide a colorful show in the fall, winter, and early spring. A really good companion plant to provide color and contrast in the spring is dwarf crested iris.

this is upper shillalah falls which I was photographing yesterday.

1 comment:

  1. I have this in two shade gardens and it truly is a lovely plant. The leaves are rich and substantial even in dry times.