By William T. Hathaway


The heartleaf (Hexastylis virginicum) has other popular names as listed in various wildflower manuals. Coltsfoot and southern wild ginger are popular local names. In 1940 an elderly lady living in a rural setting within Pittsylvania County called the flowers of this plant “little-brown-jugs.”

In recollecting sites that I have observed, the heartleaf seems confined to loamy soils on cooler, north-facing woodland slopes. In April and May the brownish-purple flowers may be seen lying on the ground or beneath the dead leaves of forest litter. This perennial herb with its thick, mottled, heart-shaped leaves is often noticeable as we hike through the woods during winter months.

Another closely-related plant (Asarum canadense) is also known as “wild ginger” and is found in the north and north-west foothills of Pittsylvania County. The southern wild ginger and the wild ginger are distinctly different in appearance.