Mountain Scents

     Painting - "Morning Light at Greenbrier" - Terri Waters

     As the Smokies enter into spring, woodlands no longer shiver under winter's dark spell, and delicate wildflowers make a hesitant first appearance in the warming mountains. Hepatica and bloodroot, violets and trailing arbutus bring their colors to the Smokies - and along the shady forest floor grows wild ginger, reaching to an altitude of 3000 feet. Two species of wild ginger grow in the mountains. One, Little Brown Jugs (Asarum arifolium), is an evergreen plant with deep green leaves shaped like arrowheads. This ginger is very aromatic, but perhaps its most noticeable feature is its brownish jug-shaped flowers which lie below the leaves and are completely without petals. The jugs (known as calyx) grow to roughly and inch in length, and, clustered together, they look like piglets with open mouths waiting for supper. Little Brown Jugs were thus quite often called "pigs" by the local people. 

     Another ginger, known simply as Wild Ginger (Asarum acuminatum), is not an evergreen, for its leaves are a pale green that last through only one season. Its flowers, also without petals, are of a jug-like appearance but because of outspread sepals look larger than those of Little Brown Jugs. Wild Ginger grows in April and May in the Smokies, along the moist, rich banks of mountain streams.