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Heartleaf Ginger
Hexastylis arifoli

When I first read about a plant called Little Brown Jugs I kind of became obsessed with finding it. However I was confused. I had this plant (leaf pictured here) everywhere on my property, however at one point someone told me it was trout lily leaf (which now I know it’s definitely not) and I had to keep looking up wild ginger, and trout lily, and then there’s Heartleaf Ginger which is another name for Little Brown Jugs (but that’s not Wild Ginger!) and it confused me at the time, and I couldn’t definitely identify this as Little Brown Jugs because I could never catch it in bloom! Until (6 years later) every few days I kept checking under the leaf, moving aside the leaf litter…. and voila!

The other reason this was so hard to identify is that there are 10 species of this plant, and their leaf shape and pattern varies from more arrow-head shaped, to the heart shaped one that I have at Middle Way Nature Reserve.

This plant is pretty interesting – it has a long stem and it leaf is oriented horizontally which enables it to capture the limited sunlight in a shaded canopy. In the winter, the stem (petiole) collapses, brining the leaf closer to the ground, where the surface temperatures are warmer. This facilitates winter photosynthesis.

Alternate Names: Heartleaf Ginger, Virginia Heartleaf,  Heart-leaf Little Brown Jug
Size: 1"-4" tall
Family: Aristolochiaceae (Birthwort Family)
Habitat: Common in forests and woodlands, prefers moist locations but can tolerate drier soils.
Identification: "Leaves are 3-6 inches long (sometimes longer) and form thick, waxy, evergreen, heart-shaped triangles on long petioles arising from the rootstock. Urn-like blossom is really a jug-shaped calyx with 3 pointed lobes close to the ground and is sometimes hard to find." From Georgia Native Plant Society
All text and photos copyright © 2022 Middle Way Nature Reserve, unless noted.
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