Dwarf Ginseng

It’s so little and cute.  And edible.  And medicinal.  And sexy.  If you don’t know it yet, you must introduce yourself.  It’s called Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius).

Dwarf Ginseng 5

Look how little it is.  Those are beech leaves on which it is casting its shadow.  Underground there is round tuber.  Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants notes that the tuber can be eaten raw as a “trailside nibble” or can be boiled and eaten as a cooked vegetable.  In the Medicinal Plants and Herbs book, several uses are noted, including chewing the root for headaches or shortness of breath.

Dwarf Ginseng Range MapThe sexy part, I’m still learning.  But here’s a passage that excited my passion for big science words:

Panax trifolium has a very uncommon form of polygamy called androdioecious. There are two forms of the flower, one is the staminate and the other is the hermaphroditic. The staminate and hermaphroditic flowers occur on separate plants. (source)

Androdioecious.  Not just plain old ordinary dioecious.  Androdioecious.  It’s just too fascinating…  I must learn more.  So, what do you think?  Is this one staminate or hermaphroditic?

Dwarf Ginseng 4 

So much to learn…

10 thoughts on “Dwarf Ginseng

  1. It looks mighty small, Jennifer. I’m glad it has medicinal value and that it can be used for headaches and shortness of breath. I wonder if I can consider that instead of aspirin or acetaminophen. Staminate?

  2. “Pollen presentation by males peaks later than pollen presentation by hermaphrodites and closely coincides with presentation of receptive stigmas by hermaphrodites. Males also have longer periods of pollen presentation than do hermaphrodites. Our results suggest that male-male competition has affected the differentiation of gender phases with respect to male reproductive traits.”
    Mark A. Schlessman et.al., “Floral phenology of sex-changing dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolium L.),” American Midland Naturalist, Vol 135, no 1, pp. 144-152 (1996)

  3. The flowers tend to be hard to tell apart, but those on smaller plants tend to be male. Depending on environmental conditions, a given plant can cahnge sex numerous times over the years.

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