A Wild, Wild, Wildflower

Hidden on the forest floor in damp areas beneath heart-shaped leaves lies one of Silver Falls’ most unusual wildflowers and my favorite to find each year. 

The wild ginger plant can be spotted year-round and identified by its deep green, shiny, finely-haired, prominent-veined leaves that look nature’s valentine.  But in the spring, these leaves hide a purplish brown flower with three-parts–each one tapering off like the handlebars on a mustache. 

If the flower isn’t impressive enough, when you find a wild ginger plant (or mat of plants–they tend to spread), take your fingernail, lightly scratch the stem, and sniff.  The lemony-ginger scent is what gives this plant its name.  And, indeed, Native Americans have used this root as both a flavoring and a medicine.  (But, before you run out to grab a handful for dinner, be forewarned that the plant does contain cancer-causing toxins!)

My go-to spot for wild ginger at Silver Falls is a bit of a trek, although you’re guaranteed to find it.  Head to Silver Falls’ tallest fall, Double Falls.  On the spur trail, keep your eyes to the left.  When you find a wild ginger leaf, carefully lift it and look for a purplish brown, wild, wild, wildflower.  Good luck!

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