|European wild ginger|
|Flower and emerging spring leaves on a specimen from the Schwäbisch-Fränkischer Forest in Germany|
Asarum europaeum, commonly known as asarabacca, European wild ginger, hazelwort, and wild spikenard, is a species of wild ginger (unrelated to the rhizome spice ginger) with single axillary dull purple flowers, lying on the ground. It is widespread across Europe, ranging from southern Finland and northern Russia south to southern France, Italy and the Republic of Macedonia. It is also grown extensively outside of its range as an ornamental. It is sometimes harvested for use as a spice or a flavoring.
The stems are 10–15 cm long. The leaves are petiolate and reniform and about 10 cm wide. It occurs mostly in deciduous woodland or coniferous forests, especially in calcareous soils. There are two recognised subspecies other than the type, including A. europaeum ssp. caucasicum, which is confined to the southwestern Alps, and A. europaeum ssp. italicum, which is found in central and northern Italy as well as in the Skopska Crna Gora mountains. In former days, it was used in snuff and also medicinally as an emetic and cathartic. It is quite shade-tolerant and is often employed as a ground cover in gardens where little else will grow.
The plant is a perennial and has prostrate stems that each bear 2 reniform (i.e. kidney-shaped) leaves with long petioles. The upper surface of the leaves is shiny and they have a pepper-like taste and smell. There are also 2 to 3 stipules present that occur in two rows opposite each other on the stem. the flowers are solitary, terminal and nodding. The flower tube is composed of fused tepals that ends with 3 petal-like projections that are brownish towards their ends and dark purple toward the centre. There are 12 stamens present. The flowers emerge in the late winter and spring.
Distribution and habitat
Asarum europaeum has a wide distribution in Europe. It ranges from southern Finland and northern Russia south to southern France, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Macedonia. It is absent from the British Isles and Scandinavia with the exception of southern Finland, and also from northwestern Germany and the Netherlands. Within Europe, the plant is grown outside of its range in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.
- Seidemann, Johannes (July 2005). World Spice Plants: Economic Usage, Botany, Taxonomy (1 ed.). Germany: Springer. p. 57. ISBN 3-540-22279-0.
- Katzer, Gernot. "Geographic Spice Index". Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- (German) Schmeil, Otto; Fitschen, Jost; Seybold, Siegmund (2006). Flora von Deutschland, 93. Auflage. Wiebelsheim: Quelle & Meyer Verlag. p. 190. ISBN 3-494-01413-2.
- Tutin, T.G.; V. H. Heywood; N. A. Burges; D. H. Valentine; S. M. Walters; D. A. Webb (ed.). "Asarum europaeum". Flora Europaea. Cambridge University Press.