Naturalist’s Notes: The Little Brown Jug

Spring is in the air.  As a naturalist, it is difficult not to find something noteworthy while walking Irvine’s trails. I thought I would choose a subject today that is incredibly easy to pass by.

In Irvine’s Woodland Garden, there is a great variety of beautiful blooms – each seemingly more spectacular than the last. The little brown jug, while special in its own way, is not a visual feast. In fact, you may find yourself passing it by!

Look for spotted, arrow-shaped leaves on the forest floor.  They are evergreen and can be seen any time that snow is not on the ground. Follow the stalks to the middle and, for a brief couple weeks in late-April or early-May, you will see the flower. Brown. Round. Kind of ugly. There’s not much else like it; making it one of my favorite flowers of the season.

So how do bees find a flower on the ground possibly covered by leaves? They don’t! These little brown jugs are pollinated by ground dwelling beetles and other invertebrates.

While it may be an unassuming specimen, the plant is related to the well known wild ginger. It shares ginger’s fragrance and has even been used for similar medical purposes, such as easing stomach ailments.

Please, stop by the trails and garden and see this little “beauty” for yourself!

Little Brown Jug

-Steven Mickletz