SPECIES: Asarum caudatum

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Asarum caudatum: INTRODUCTORY

INTRODUCTORY

SPECIES: Asarum caudatum

 

 

Robert Potts California Academy of Sciences

AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Gucker, Corey L. 2004. Asarum caudatum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis [].

FEIS ABBREVIATION:
ASACAU

SYNONYMS:
None

NRCS PLANT CODE [64]:
ASCA2
ASCAC2
ASCAV

COMMON NAMES:
wild ginger
British Columbia wildginger
longtail wildginger

TAXONOMY:
The scientific name of wild ginger is Asarum caudatum Lindl. (Aristolochiaceae) [25,26,29,33,36,45,47]. Accepted varieties are:

Asarum caudatum var. caudatum, wild ginger or British Columbia wildginger
Asarum caudatum Lindl. var. viridiflorum M.E. Peck [29], longtail wildginger

In this review, the common name wild ginger will refer to both varieties (caudatum and viridiflorum). Longtail wildginger will refer only to the viridiflorum variety. When literature is cited that refers to wild ginger by genus only and does not specify species it will be indicated as (Asarum spp.).

LIFE FORM:
Forb

FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
None

OTHER STATUS:
None


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Asarum caudatum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:
Wild ginger is found in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Montana, and British Columbia [12,25,27]. A distribution map for wild ginger can be accessed through the Plants database. Longtail wildginger occurs only in Oregon. Although both wild ginger varieties occur in Oregon, it is considered rare in this state by some [30].

ECOSYSTEMS [21]:
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir-spruce
FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce
FRES25 Larch
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES27 Redwood

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)
UNITED STATES
CA ID MT OR WA

CANADA
BC

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [9]:
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
8 Northern Rocky Mountains

KUCHLER [33] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K001 Spruce-cedar-hemlock forest
K002 Cedar-hemlock-Douglas-fir forest
K003 Silver fir-Douglas-fir forest
K004 Fir-hemlock forest
K005 Mixed conifer forest
K006 Redwood forest
K007 Red fir forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K013 Cedar-hemlock-pine forest
K014 Grand fir-Douglas-fir forest
K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026
K029 California mixed evergreen forest

SAF COVER TYPES [17]:
205 Mountain hemlock
206 Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir
207 Red fir
210 Interior Douglas-fir
211 White fir
212 Western larch
213 Grand fir
215 Western white pine
218 Lodgepole pine
221 Red alder
223 Sitka spruce
224 Western hemlock
225 Western hemlock-Sitka spruce
226 Coastal true fir-hemlock
227 Western redcedar-western hemlock
228 Western redcedar
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
230 Douglas-fir-western hemlock
231 Port-Orford-cedar
232 Redwood
234 Douglas-fir-tanoak-Pacific madrone
237 Interior ponderosa pine
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
244 Pacific ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir
245 Pacific ponderosa pine

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [55]:
109 Ponderosa pine shrubland
409 Tall forb

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Wild ginger is a common understory species and is used to identify habitat types within western redcedar (Thuja plicata), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), grand fir (Abies grandis), and Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) forest types [14,15,28]. Wild ginger is also found in western white pine (Pinus monticola), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) [13], western larch (Larix occidentalis) [22,23], white fir (A. concolor) [51], and red alder (Alnus rubra) [11] communities.

Shrub and subshrub species commonly found with wild ginger include: baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa), big huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum), Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum), twinflower (Linnaea borealis) and Oregon boxwood (Paxistima myrsinites). Forbs commonly associated with wild ginger include: ladyfern (Athyrium filix-femina), devilsclub (Oplopanax horridus), queencup beadlily (Clintonia uniflora), pioneer violet (Viola glabella), western sword fern (Polystichum munitum), oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris), Idaho goldthread (Coptis occidentalis), drops of gold (Disporum hookeri), American trailplant (Adenocaulon bicolor), and threeleaf foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata) [14,32,38,44].

Wild ginger is recognized as a dominant species in many vegetation classifications including:

ID: [1,14,18,28,45,65]
OR: [13]
WA: [13,38]
Western regions: [2]


BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Asarum caudatum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Provided is a general description of wild ginger characteristics that may relate to its fire ecology. Keys for identification are available: [26,27,34,37,46,48].

Wild ginger is a short-statured, native perennial that is considered evergreen in most of its range. Wild ginger produces slender, elongate, shallow rhizomes that allow for a spreading to highly-matted growth form. The heart- or kidney-shaped leaves occur 2 per node and measure 1.5 to 4 inches (4 -10 cm) long by up to 6 inches (15 cm) wide. A ginger odor is released through rubbing or crushing the leaves. Fruits are capsules containing several seeds. Seeds have a fleshy appendage and are dispersed by ants. Wild ginger produces rhizomes that grow to just 0.7 inches (18 mm) long [10,20,26,27,34,48]. Cates [12] indicates that 2 wild ginger morphological types exist. One type flowers earlier, produces more seeds and tends to be found on wetter sites while the other type flowers later, produces less seed, and often occupies drier sites.

RAUNKIAER [49] LIFE FORM:
Chamaephyte
Geophyte

REGENERATION PROCESSES:
Wild ginger produces rhizomes and seeds and both are a means of reproduction. Muir [43] found that asexual reproduction was less costly to wild ginger (Asarum spp.) than sexual reproduction. Reproducing sexually requires that energy be transferred from growth and nutrient storage to flower and seed production [43].

Breeding system: Wild ginger flowers are both perfect and protogynous [39]. Autogamy is predominant [39].

Pollination: Cross-pollination was found to be rare in northern California populations and was thought to be due to the lack of nectar and fragrance produced by wild ginger flowers [39].

Seed production: The fruit capsules of wild ginger (Asarum spp.) begin dropping seeds in early summer [52].

Seed dispersal: The appendage of wild ginger seed is rich in an ant-attracting oil [48]. Ants carry the seed to their nests, feed on the seed appendages, discard the seed in piles, and effectively disperse wild ginger seed.

Seed banking: No information is available on this topic.

Germination: No information is available on this topic.

Seedling establishment/growth: Wild ginger has been described as slow growing [52]

Asexual regeneration: Wild ginger has rhizomes and often forms mats of vegetation [27,48]. Sprouting from rhizomes in relation to disturbance was not discussed in the literature.

SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Wild ginger occupies moist, shady woodlands of low- to mid-montane regions [27,32,34].

Climate: The winter climate where wild ginger occurs has been described as mild; temperatures are normally 15 to 25 F (8-14 C) [14]. Precipitation falls predominantly in the winter and spring months as rain or deep snow at the higher elevations, and humidity levels are typically high. Summers months are dry; July and August normally receive less than 1 inch (25 mm) of rainfall for the month. Dry thunderstorms are more common during these times [14].

Soils: Silt to loam soils are described for most habitat types characterized by wild ginger [14]. Depths from 8 to 73 inches (20-185 cm) were reported and pH ranged from 4.5 to 7.1.

Oregon and Washington: Wild ginger is common within the Douglas-fir-western white pine communities of the Blue Mountains. These communities occur from 4,921 to 6,562 feet (1,500-2,000 m) elevation and receive on average 25 to 45 inches (635-1,140 mm) of precipitation annually [13]. The western hemlock/wild ginger plant association occurs at low to moderate elevations (2,200 to 3,400 feet (670-1,036 m)), on north, west, and southwest aspects with moderate slopes (1-57%). Western hemlock/vine maple (Acer circinatum) /wild ginger plant associations occur between 2,140 and 2,730 feet (652-832 m) elevation, on most aspects with 1-48% slope, and on less moist soils than western hemlock/wild ginger [38].

Northern Idaho: The western hemlock/wild ginger habitat type, considered the most productive of the western hemlock areas, can be found on any slope or landform from 2,200 to 5,000 feet (670-1,520 m) [14]. Western redcedar/wild ginger habitat types are considered highly productive and occur on all aspects and landforms, primarily occupying moderate slopes (8-25 degrees) between 2,200 and 5,200 ft (670-1,590 m). Within cedar-hemlock forests, wild ginger occurred with higher frequency when tree cover was greater than 41% than when tree cover was less than 10% and had significantly higher frequency when shrub cover was less than 30% [42]. The grand fir/wild ginger habitat type occurs at elevations as low as 4,200 feet (1,280 m) and as high as 6,000 feet (1,829 m) [14,18]. The Pacific yew/wild ginger habitat type occurs on warmer sites and on shallower soils than the grand fir/wild ginger habitat type [15].

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Wild ginger can be present in most successional communities. This species was the most dominant forb species in 80+ year old stands of spruce-fir forests of northern Idaho [53,54]. Wild ginger has been described as shade tolerant [27,34,48] and as a climax species by some [29,45].

The available literature suggests that wild ginger is commonly absent from very early seral communities. Wild ginger is rarely found in clearcut areas of northern Idaho conifer forests [35], suggesting an intolerance of very early seral conditions. It is also common to find wild ginger associated with western larch and western white pine, both of which are present in a variety of seral stages [22,23]. Researchers [24] attempted to determine successional pathways within the grand fir/wild ginger habitat type following a variety of disturbances. Areas that had been clearcut and broadcast burned producing mid- to high-severity fires were not colonized by wild ginger until after progressing through the herbaceous structural stage. In some areas following the same treatments, wild ginger was not present until the community had progressed through the sapling or pole stage of development. Yet, when areas were burned in low- to mid-severity wildfires and the overstory community remained intact, wild ginger persisted [24]. This suggests wild ginger is present in those seral stages that contain some overstory canopy but is not a pioneer species.

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
In low elevation sites of northern California, the wild ginger flowering season was late February to June [39]. In Oregon flowering was later, occurring from April to July [63].


FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Asarum caudatum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:
Fire adaptations: To date, (2004) no primary literature has been located that specifically addresses wild ginger's fire adaptations. Wild ginger was found the 1st postburn year following a high-severity fire in northern Idaho [59]. In a decade-long study following a high-severity, stand-replacing fire in western redcedar-western hemlock forests of northern Idaho, wild ginger was classified as a residual colonizer, establishing from on- or off-site seed or fruit [60,61]. However, wild ginger has rhizomes that sprout new individuals [27,48], and while no study specifically states that wild ginger sprouts from rhizomes following disturbance or fire, this adaptation should not be overlooked as a potential postdisturbance or postfire regeneration strategy.

Fire regimes: The fire regime for wild ginger is dictated by the overstory community. Prior to 1900, grand fir communities are characterized as having mixed and stand-replacing fire regimes [3]. Smith [56] highlights the extreme variation within grand fir habitat types. This includes frequent fires that create persistent shrub communities and areas where no evidence of past fire has been located [56]. Western hemlock/wild ginger habitat types experienced infrequent, high-severity fires at 100 to 200 year intervals [38]. Presettlement fire regimes in northern Idaho for the western redcedar and western hemlock/wild ginger habitat types have been described as stand replacing with long fire return intervals that have been attributed to the moist understory conditions and the build-up of continuous fuels [56]. However, small understory burns have been described as well.

The following list provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where wild ginger may be found. It may not be inclusive. If you are interested in plant communities or ecosystems that are not listed, see the complete FEIS fire regime table.

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
silver fir-Douglas-fir Abies amabilis-Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii > 200
grand fir Abies grandis 35-200 [3]
tamarack Larix laricina 35-200 [47]
western larch Larix occidentalis 25-350 [4,8,16]
western white pine* Pinus monticola 50-200
Pacific ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa 1-47 [3]
interior ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-30 [3,7,36]
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 [3,5,6]
coastal Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii 40-240 [3,41,50]
California mixed evergreen Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii-Lithocarpus densiflorus-Arbutus menziesii < 35 [3]
redwood Sequoia sempervirens 5-200 [3,19,62]
western redcedar-western hemlock Thuja plicata-Tsuga heterophylla > 200
western hemlock-Sitka spruce Tsuga heterophylla-Picea sitchensis > 200
mountain hemlock* Tsuga mertensiana 35 to > 200 [3]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [60]:
Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)


FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Asarum caudatum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
Wild ginger is commonly killed by even low-severity fires and is described as very sensitive to fire in a literature review by Smith [57].

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:
Wild ginger may be fire tolerant but its presence in a community is likely dictated by its shade requirement. When studying the successional development of the grand fir/wild ginger habitat type, Green and Jensen [24] found that following low intensity burns in which the forest canopy remained intact, wild ginger was still present in the community. However, when fires removed canopy vegetation wild ginger was not among the 1st species to colonize [24].

PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Wild ginger's postfire response depends on the severity on the fire and its effect on the overstory community. Following moderate severity slash burns in a clearcut Douglas-fir community near Oakridge, Oregon, burned and unburned plots were compared [58]. Wild ginger, an uncommon understory species in this community, was not found on burned plots sampled 11 to 16 years following the fires. It did occur on clearcut, unburned sites, where vine maple contributed to greater shading of the area [58]. Similarly, in a study of single and multiple broadcast burns that removed all tree cover except an occasional western larch, wild ginger was significantly (p = .05) more frequent on sites that had not burned [42]. Data were not provided about time since or between burns of the sites.

The 1st year following a high-severity, stand-replacing fire in northern Idaho forests, wild ginger was found on just 1 of 21 postburn plots [59]. The wild ginger found was a seedling and did not flower that 1st postburn year [59]. In a study designed to determine successional pathways following disturbance within the grand fir/wild ginger habitat type, wild ginger was found in all but the earliest seral communities following fire and clearcutting that produce fires of varying severities [24].

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
No additional information is available on this topic.

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
No additional information is available on this topic.


MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Asarum caudatum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
As the dominant forb in the understory of the late seral spruce-fir forest, wild ginger may be important in some aspect of the northern Idaho pocket gopher's survival. The abundance of pocket gophers in northern Idaho was found to be greatest in early- and late-seral spruce-fir forests [53,54]. The author suggests that the preference for these seral stages may indicate a preference for the vegetation that defines these seral stages [53,54]. More supporting evidence comes from a pollination study in northern California where Lu [39] had to tailor the study around rodents that fed on numerous mature wild ginger fruits. The types of rodents were not identified, however.

Western hemlock/wild ginger sites do not provide for livestock grazing; just 50 lbs/acre of herbage is produced annually [38].

Palatability/nutritional value: Wild ginger is palatable to slugs [12].

Cover value: No information is available on this topic.

VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
No information is available on this topic.

OTHER USES:
Wild ginger is known to have antibiotic properties. Aboriginal people of the Pacific Northwest used wild ginger to treat tuberculosis, to ease stomach pain, to soothe arthritis pain and headaches, and as a protective wash thought to bring good luck [48]. A Mexican medicine woman used this species to make teas said to calm nervousness and fright [66].

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Wild ginger is often used as an indicator of certain environmental and growth factors. It is used to indicate moist sites within montane and lower subalpine regions of west-central Montana [10,34] and wet soil moisture regimes in the Rocky Mountain montane conifer forest [40]. In British Columbia, wild ginger is an indicator of cool temperate climates, very moist, water recharging sites, and nitrogen-rich, Moder and Mull hummus soils [32]. Wild ginger also indicates those Douglas-fir sites that are most productive [31].

Asarum caudatum: References


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