Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius)
Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius) is a woodland perennial that produces an umbrella of tiny, delicate white flowers in the Adirondack Mountains in mid-spring. The flowers turn pale pink with age. Each flower is 1/8 inch wide. The flowers are followed by yellow, berry-like fruit in July and August. The leaf is a single whorl of finely toothed leaflets. The plant reaches 3 to 8 inches in height.
Dwarf Ginseng is a member of the Araliaceae (Ginseng) family. It is also known as Ground Nut. The term "panax" is Greek for "all remedy" -- a reference to the ancient Chinese belief that the plant was a panacea. The term "trifolius" means "three-leaves."
This plant has been used by native Americans to treat a wide variety of ailments. Cherokee tribes used it to treat chest pain, headaches, hives, colic, gout, rheumatism, and liver ailments. The Iroquois are said to have used it for chest pains and as a sports medicine. In addition, the tuber of the Dwarf Ginseng reportedly can be eaten raw or boiled.
Dwarf Ginseng grows in shade or partial shade in rich soil in moist woods and damp clearings. It can be found in the eastern half of the US and Canada, including New York State, south to Georgia.
At the Paul Smiths VIC, Dwarf Ginseng may be seen along the Heron Marsh Trail. It usually blooms in this part of the Adirondack Park in early May, depending on the weather.
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