American Ginseng – Panax quinquefolius (Plant Profile)

by | Botany

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Ginseng has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant, known across the globe for its powerful properties, but did you know that ginseng is also native to the Western world?

Unfortunately, this plant is endangered and facing extinction in the wild, so learning about the plant, its habitat, and the significance of its situation is critical to conservation efforts.

You might be surprised to learn that American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is different from Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) but both are considered important medicinal plants.

Are you ready to learn about American Ginseng? Keep reading in this plant profile from HerbSpeak and discover several interesting facts about its growth, habitat, uses and much more.

Panax Quinquefolius – Description

The American Ginseng plant is a perennial plant that grows wild throughout the Eastern half of the United States and parts of Canada, though it is primarily found in the Appalachian and Ozark regions. Ginseng is a pillar of ethnobotany, which is the study of the relationship between plants and people.

It is a root that has been revered for its health benefits, particularly in Chinese culture, for centuries. It has been used for centuries to promote wellness, longevity, vitality, and even sexual prowess.

One of the first written texts that depicted ginseng root as a medicinal remedy was discovered in a Chinese pharmacopeia that was written in approximately 196 AD.

Ginseng was – and is still – such a sought-after commodity that, when the very first trade ship from the United States to China left the New York harbor in 1784, it carried 30 tons of ginseng roots in its cargo bay.

To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to sort through the underbrush of dozens – or even hundreds – of green, leafy plants. It can seem nearly impossible if you only have a vague understanding of what ginseng looks like.

The main difference between your cultivated crop and “wild ginseng” is not in any spectacular genetic mutation or anything of that sort; simply that the root is harvested wild.

Allowing a root to mature in wild conditions where it is forced to struggle and survive through unmanned conditions gives the root a bulbous appearance, though this characteristic does not typically occur until the plant is about 10 years old, or sometimes even older.

The plant grows in rich, moist hillsides with plenty of canopy cover, growing up to 3 feet tall – 15 inches on average – and as deep into the earth as 12 feet.

ginseng quinquefolius plant

Noteworthy Characteristics

The American ginseng plant has many noteworthy characteristics once you learn how to identify it and what to look for.

Each plant has three leaf stalks which separate into palmately compound leaflets in cluster of 5 – or in clusters of 3 when the plant is young.

The root may resemble a small, forked parsnip until it grows mature enough to begin to branch out and takes on more of a “human-like” shape, with the root neck forming a “head.”

Because of the “human-like” root growth, wild ginseng is widely sought after, having become a symbol of whole-body health and vitality; a cure-all.

When compared to the mystical human shape of wild ginseng, cultivated American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius, might look rather straight and unimaginative, if you were to grow it in typical farming conditions; typically called “field grown” ginseng.

Comparing the two main types of ginseng, Panax ginseng is stimulating and considered to be much stronger than P. quinquefolius. It promotes focus, vitality, and mental energy. One study has even acknowledged P. ginseng’s ability to stimulate the immune system in humans and in mice.

Visually, however, there are not many differences in the leaves or berries of the two plants. The leaves of Asian ginseng are slightly more rounded, and the stem may grow taller than American ginseng, but for the most part, they are both very much so ginseng.

Once the plant has matured beyond five to six years, you can see that the roots of American ginseng tend to be thicker, more cylindrical than Asian ginseng, which tends to grow in irregular widths and shapes. Both types of ginseng will tend to branch out into small rootlets, and they will eventually form the vague, “human-like” shape that is so popular.

Panax Quinquefolius Common Names

There are not many common names associated with P. quinquefolius outside of “American Ginseng” as it is named for its region rather than a characteristic or common effect. An alternative name for the plant is Aralia quinquefolia in some places.

The plant comes from the family Araliaceae, also known as the ivy family. This is a family of flowering plants that contains roughly 1,500 species of woody and herbaceous plants.

This family is coined by the presence of simple umbels and houses other noteworthy plants such as Panax ginseng, the Hedera genera (ivies) and Schefflera (umbrella trees.)

Panax Quinquefolius vs. Panax Ginseng

American Ginseng, P. quinquefolius is the western plant within the same family as P. ginseng, known as Asian ginseng, or occasionally as “true ginseng” as the plant formerly grew wild in eastern Chinese mountain ranges.

Asian ginseng is considered warming and invigorating, while American ginseng is cooling and calming, though both are used for similar medicinal purposes.

American ginseng tends to have slightly shorter leaves, both in individual leaflet shape, as well as the height of the plant. The berries are also smaller to a slight degree and tend to produce less vibrant berries than P. ginseng.

Whether this is a result of cultivation, it is unknown, as P. ginseng is thought to be extinct in the wild due to overharvesting.

Both plants are similar enough to each other to be almost thought of as interchangeable, and demand for P. quinquefolius is causing the wild plant to become overharvested to the point of extinction, following in the footsteps of the other.

Panax Notoginseng

P. notoginseng is a plant in the same family as P. quinquefolius and P. ginseng, but its medicinal effects are different, and derived from saponins, rather than ginsenosides; though it still contains ginsenosides. (1) This plant grows naturally in China and has many deep green leaves, similar to P. quinquefolius in shape and size.

The iconic berry shape remains the same as other types of ginseng as well, though the leaves are notable different. It is occasionally referred to as the “three-seven root” because of the three petioles on the plant that contain seven leaflets each.

The leaves may also appear slightly shinier and longer than other varieties of ginseng, especially when compared to P. quinquefolius over P. ginseng.  

The saponins of P. notoginseng induce a variety of pharmacological effects … including anti-inflammatory activity, reduction of oxidative stress, anti-apoptosis, inhibition of amino acid excitotoxicity, reduction of intracellular calcium overload, protection of mitochondria, repairing the blood-brain barrier, and facilitation of cell regeneration.

Fei Yang

While there are studies that support its potential for use as a medicinal herb, there have been far fewer studies performed on P. notoginseng, leaving many uncertain about the plant being used in supplements and some over the counter solutions.

While this plant is closely related to ginseng, it should be noted that it is not the same plant as P. quinquefolius or P. ginseng and should not be used to replace the plants in a dietary regimen.

What is Panax Quinquefolius Used For?

American ginseng has long been used in medicinal applications as an adaptogen, and while there is no concrete evidence in Western research that the plant is truly effective in its historical medicinal claims.

Still, research has been done extensively on ginsenoside, the active compound thought to be responsible for a lot of the health benefits ginseng provides. (2) Panax ginseng, or Asian Ginseng has also been extensively studied.  

Native Americans have used this plant for centuries to help with ailments such as fatigue and colds. They would also use the root to treat headaches, fever, indigestion, and infertility.

More recent studies have found it to be a potentially effective treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes, and even cancer. There is even some evidence that it may boost energy and lower high cholesterol levels, reduce stress, and treat diabetes.

The root of this herbaceous perennial can be used to make tea or be taken as a pill, and the leaves can be dried and made into an herbal supplement.

The plant has been known for hundreds of years for its use in promoting physical and sexual health, mental focus, and overall well-being.

Perhaps the most popular reason why ginseng has gained recognition over the last few years, however, is because it is a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction. This treatment method has been the most extensively studied in the West out of all other ailments, and still requires more research, but shows positive preliminary results.

These effects are distinct from those of Asian ginseng and suggest that psychopharmacological properties depend critically on ginsenoside profiles.

Andrew Scholey

Because of its popularity as a healthy herbal supplement for increasing energy levels and improving cognitive function, the whole root and extract alike are added to many products like alcohol and energy drinks, though the level of ginsenosides in each product varies, with some only containing a negligible amount of real ginseng extract.

Adverse Effects and Toxicity of American Ginseng

In the Western world, the Federal Trade Commission and FDA has both continuously issued warnings to ginseng supplement manufacturers about their “unsupported claims that ginseng promotes health and contains anti-disease factors.”

These warnings continue even into this year, as many natural supplements are seeing an undeniable spike in popularity.

Common side effects include, but are not limited to:

  • Insomnia and Restlessness
  • Anxiety or Mania
  • Nosebleeds and High Blood Pressure
  • Low Blood Sugar

Many of the reports from the FDA and FTC from 2019 state that ginseng supplements are not generally recognized as safe, which means manufacturers cannot claim these health benefits. The reports state that the product cannot be sold to the public because the manufacturer is claiming the product is a pharmaceutical drug based on how they are endorsing and advertising their product.

On one hand, you might argue that the money spent sending these warnings is wasting funds that could have gone to bringing ginseng into a new world of recognition through clinical studies and health research. Something that might help us begin recognizing ginseng as a safe herbal supplement with supported health claims.

You would be right: more money absolutely could go into discovering the health and safety of ginseng, allowing companies to make their claims and continue advertising their products. Science can always use more awareness and funding, no matter what the focus subject is.  

On the other hand, however, you might argue that the practice of issuing these warnings is noble and worth the funding, particularly in the case of supplements that are labeled with unspecific names.

These unspecific names (i.e., “ginseng”) are a danger for many people who have contraindications or poor reactions to certain plant species. For example, many importers who are labeling their products as Siberian ginseng many not even be using roots from the Panax genus, the “true ginseng” genus.

People using these ginseng extracts containing Siberian ginseng may be surprised to find that they aren’t consuming ginseng at all, but a member of the Eleuthero species, which is commonly called Siberian ginseng because of its uncanny appearance. (3)

[the product] must identify the ingredient using the Latin binomial Eleutherococcus senticosus or the standardized common name “eleuthero.” The term “Siberian ginseng” cannot be used.

FDA.gov

Ultimately, using a different plant than the general public understands it to be can cause a whole other world of unintended side effects, meaning these warning letters and import alerts have their good side, too.

ginseng flowers

How to Identify American Ginseng

Even without foraging, learning how to identify ginseng in a green, leafy underbrush can be an exciting challenge to the aspiring botanist. Furthermore, identifying and reporting ginseng patches to the local authorities can help them add crop poaching deterrents or surveillance to the area.

When you look closely at the ginseng plant, you’ll notice that the leaflets are palmately compound – meaning it looks like a hand outstretched – and attached directly to the petiole. Younger ginseng plants in their first to third year may only have three leaflets.

The leaflets have a wide base with a gentle serration all the way to the pointed tip and pronounced venation.

The first set of leaflets are typically equal in size with long stalks, while the outer leaves which are closer to the petiole are considerably smaller and have much shorter stalks.

Sometime between the second and fourth year, flowers appear as a small set of orb-like umbels that contain both a stigma and stamen. On stalk can average anywhere from 30 to 50 flowers, which turn into berries once pollinated.

Berries are typically only present after their fourth or fifth year, but they produce in early summer, beginning as small green dots where the flowers were previously. As summer fades into fall, the berries turn from green to a luscious, bright red that attracts many animals ready to disperse the seeds throughout the forest.

The root itself is iconic, with a strong human-like shape as the plant ages. The branching roots create the illusion of “arms and legs”, with the root neck serving as the head. The more wild the ginseng, the more erratic and supposedly-human shaped the root becomes.

The root neck confirms the age of the plant and can generally be found with a light scraping of the top layer of dirt, as it is also at the base of the plant.

Each year of growth adds a scar to the rhizome, as the plant goes dormant each autumn to prepare for the onset of colder weather. In spring, it regrows at the top of the rhizome, creating new growth and leaving a scar where the old tissue fell dormant.  

Quick Identification Checklist:

  • Leaves: The leaves are bright green, fading into yellow as the plant goes dormant for the colder winter months. New growth begins as a three-leaved compound leaflet, which later develops into a five-leafed palmately compound leaflet.
  • Stem: The stems grows several inches directly from the rhizome before extending into secondary stems and petioles, and later compound leaflets. The stem is typically green in coloration and slightly rigid to the touch.
  • Petiole: The petiole can grow to become 2” long, remaining dull green or muted red in coloration. The petiole is bare, without any cilia or spines.
  • New Growth: New growth forms as a compound leaflet structure with three leaves. New leaves may have underdeveloped leaf shapes, not gaining their full serration or pointed tips until later stages of growth.
  • Flowers: After the second to fourth year of growth, the flowers grow in as green nubs in an umbel formation. They will gently bloom in the spring before blossoming into an orb-like collection of whitish flowers. These flowers grow several inches above the leaves, protruding from the plant to help display the plant to pollinators.
  • Berries: After the fourth or fifth year of growth, bright green berries will appear on the plant once the flowers have been pollinated in spring. This early summer growth quickly turns into a luscious, vibrant red to capture the attention of animals who will help disperse the seeds. The berries stick out several inches above the plant to put itself on display for animals, making it easy to spot in the underbrush.

Lookalike Plants

Unfortunately, a lot of plants follow a similar pattern of growth, and these lookalikes can be easily mistaken for ginseng in the early spring. In the case of missing markers, invasive plants, or identifying the plant as you pass on your evening hike, it’s important to understand the differences between your ginseng and any plants native to the surrounding environment.

When you go out to harvest your crop, the last thing you want is to grab a fistful of poison ivy by accident or lock on to a budding buckeye tree that has just started to grow into its thorny stems.

Generally, the older the plant, the easier it will be to identify it. Once your ginseng has matured, the leaves will become more bulbous and the serration won’t appear so severe, making it easy to tell apart from look-alikes such as wild strawberry seedlings.

Range and Habitat

Ginseng grows naturally within the Ozark and Appalachians, though wild patches are getting harder and harder to come by. The plant prefers filtered sunlight and shade that comes with growing underneath mixed hardwood trees.

Native plants are almost always found on East or Northern-facing slopes where there is a significant amount of shade canopy that neighboring trees can provide to the growing ginseng.

The soil should contain a high organic content, which most woodland forests have after many years of organic leaf litter decaying into the topsoil.

Ideally, the pH balance of the soil should be relatively neutral. Ginseng can tolerate pH levels up to around 6.5, but anything higher or lower than 5.0 will stunt the plant’s growth and prevent it from absorbing as many nutrients as possible. Ginseng in unfavorable pH soils may also be at a greater risk of bacterial diseases than those in neutral soils.

Ginseng Berries up close

When Does Ginseng Have Berries?

Once pollinated, ginseng can produce berries. These berries typically bloom after their fourth or fifth year, but the plant may not produce berries every single year.

Ginseng berries do take some time to produce, and the flowers must be pollinated before they can fully form. Once a plant has reached 4 to 5 years of age, it is considered mature enough to produce berries.

When berries do appear on the plant, they typically begin as small green dots beginning in early summer, then turn from that to a pale yellow, and then into a bright red, juicy berry cluster as summer fades into fall. These berries are known to carry a single seed per berry, but it is not uncommon to find two seeds in a single berry.  

While the transition from green to yellow and finally red can take quite a few months, songbirds, squirrels, and other berry-loving animals will take advantage of a freshly ripened patch faster than you can say “shoo!” so it is important to keep a close eye on their development as they begin turning yellow and red. Once the berries look fleshy and vibrantly red, they can be safely removed from the plant.

To conserve the new seeds and replant them near the plants already growing in the patch, you can peel the seeds out of the fruit then burying them nearby.

When burying the seeds, you should ensure that the lighting and soil conditions are similar, as this will give the seeds the best chance at survival. The raw seeds should be covered in one or two inches of leaf litter and soil so they can come up naturally.

They must undergo one year of stratification underground before the seedling can break through the seed shell, so healthy seeds that have undergone successful stratification should sprout in the following fall for their first year of growth.

Does Ginseng Flower?

Yes, ginseng does flower from June to July, and the flowers provide an interesting, mildly aromatic yet earthy scent. A lot of people agree that ginseng has a very unique scent, but others claim that it is simply “earthy.”

The flowers are unique in appearance, with umbels of greenish-white or greenish-yellow in color. These flowers later turn into the bright red berries that are seen in the fall, but until they are pollinated, they grow into a white orb-like structure several inches above the leaves of the plant.

Flowers typically appear between the second and fourth years as a small set of orb-like umbels along a single stalk. One stalk can house an average of 30-50 flowers. They require insects like wild bees and syrphid flies for pollination.

Other Plant Companions

One key identifier of Panax quinquefolius is the plants that may appear in the same area. These companion plants like the same growing conditions that wild ginseng does, compatible in similar growing regions, so if you happen to spot these plants growing, you might be in an area ripe for a ginseng patch.

While looking for companion plants is not a foolproof way to find a ginseng site, as these plants can also grow outside of the strict growing conditions that ginseng has been identified in, it is a helpful way to narrow down a search, particularly if you are looking for places to cultivate a new crop of ginseng.

Several companion plants include Jack in the Pulpit, Trilliums, Goldenseal, Wild Yam, and Solomon’s Seal plants. These are all well known yet prized finds in the wild, so even without a ginseng patch, finding these wild-growing plants are quite a treat for the hobbyist explorer.

Laws and Regulations Around American Ginseng

As a protected plant species, ginseng has a lot of laws and regulations around it that can make it easy to get in trouble over, even with cultivated roots.

For example, if you are cultivating ginseng, it is important to know where your seeds or rootlets came from and retain documentation that your source has not illegally harvested the plant material. Having a strong paper trail is important for keeping inspections to a minimum and that you can continue to grow the endangered plant, especially if you are exporting significant quantities for sale.

Likewise, many areas require an export license depending on where you are shipping the harvested roots to, and

All of this is in a strong conservation effort to ensure you are not directly or indirectly involved with illegal crop poaching, as it is the main thing that has threatened the survival of the species to date.

Part of the conservation efforts the government and authoritative bodies are undergoing is regulated wild harvesting in some states. Like with hunting, this species is regulated to only be harvested during a certain time of the year with certain restrictions on age of the plant, as well as how many you are allowed to forage. The regulations for this “seng hunting season” varies based on location.

Within the United States, your best resource for the latest laws around the plants cultivation and harvest is the Fish and Wildlife service. By contacting your representative FWS, you can learn more specific details about the laws and how they affect your situation than any online resource could provide, especially as time goes on and these regulations and licensure requirements are updated.

Keep in mind that the laws and regulations around American ginseng does change often, so it is important to keep up to date with them, especially if you are selling ginseng or attempting to cultivate ginseng in a wild environment.

Want to Learn More About Ginseng?

Enjoy more in-depth information about how to identify, grow, and harvest your own American ginseng crop in HerbSpeak's new book: How to Grow Ginseng.

In this book, you’ll learn everything you need to know about growing ginseng – specifically American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius – and how to care for this wonderful plant from seed to harvest.

Beyond that, you’ll learn why such a small root has earned such an honorable reputation, and what you can do to help keep this plant in our lives no matter what your motivation for growing ginseng is.

Your journey into the world of ginseng starts here.

Growing American Ginseng

Whether you are growing a cultivated crop, or if you have clearance to disturb wild patches, understanding how to best plant and grow ginseng can help the overall survival of the species.

Ginseng seeds germinate in the spring, so you can plant in the fall before the ground freezes without worry. In some places, particularly in southern states, early spring planting is viable, but there is never a guarantee that your ginseng will show up in that same year.

Instead, it is recommended to plant ginseng in mid-to-late fall when the trees have shed all their leaves. You’ll find that, while ginseng seedlings need leaf litter, they can only grow through one or two inches of soil, but they will struggle in any higher amounts of organic debris.

If you plant your seeds too early, while the trees still have most of their leaves, you’ll risk burying your seedlings in four or more inches of organic debris that suffocates the seedling before it can poke through and start getting the sunlight it needs to photosynthesize.

For fall planting, ginseng roots should be planted in the ground after many of the berries from other plants have fallen.

The germination rate for viable ginseng seeds is about 95% on land that is suitable for ginseng, which means well-draining, moist soil with a lot of mulch and organic matter on top and enough shade.  

It’s not recommended to germinate your seeds indoors if you’re planning to grow them outdoors. Germinating the seeds in outdoor conditions will give them a chance to adapt to normal environmental fluctuations and get the seedling ready for maturing under the stress of the current environment.

If you are growing ginseng outside of its native habitat, the germination rate can fluctuate greatly depending on a variety of factors, and ill-timed planting or unexpected frosts can cause the seed to go dormant for another year.

Overall, given that the seed is viable and environmental and soil conditions are favorable, germination rates for seeds grown out of the native habitat can still fall somewhere within the 70-80% range.

Conservation and Management of American Ginseng

Overharvesting, and later, illegal harvesting has endangered wild American ginseng to the point of near extinction. It has almost completely disappeared from Canada, where once-prolific patches of ginseng are barren.

Unsustainable wild ginseng poaching is still a major problem, and uninformed or careless harvesters are making way to a new world where wild ginseng is no more.

In America, the story isn’t much better, with wild populations reaching unsustainable numbers, and wild ginseng disappearing entirely from many native regions.

For some growers, the motivation for cultivating ginseng isn’t health or profit, but to help re-establish the ginseng population in the wild.

If you want to pursue cultivating ginseng for conservation, you will need a permit from your local state agricultural authority, which means detailing every part of your plan from how you obtain the seeds to when you re-plant them, where you are re-planting, and what you do with the plant.

Unfortunately, growers are not free from risk even if they obey all the laws and regulations around the plant.

This also means that, for wild ginseng harvesters who are watching their income drying up along with the ‘seng patches, they’re seeking other ways of making ends meet.

Unfortunately, that can cause some to turn to local ginseng farmers’ lands. Though some may not realize that they’ve stumbled onto private property, crop poaching a cultivated patch is just as illegal as when is done without permission to harvest wild.

Several conservation efforts are underway in preventing unwanted and illegal harvesting of the wild populations. (3) Authorities have taken to injecting the root with an invisible dye that changes the color of the root once exposed to UV rays.

Occasionally, the dye is instead plainly colored even underground to deter crop poachers from destroying the plants in the process; the assumption is that, in the act of uncovering the root neck, the poacher will discover the plant or entire patch is worthless due to its unnatural coloration.

The dye is absorbed through the roots. It doesn’t hurt the plant or change the appearance of its above-ground portion, but it does remain in the plant through the rest of its life.

Holly Kays

Not only does this help trace whether a ginseng crop is legally cultivated or a victim of crop poaching, but it also renders the product useless on the market because it is no longer in a wild, natural state. This serves as a deterrent not just for selling the roots that have been harvested, but also in deterring crop poachers from entire patches, as they will assume all roots are injected with this dye – and they often are.

Status of Endangered and Threatened Patches

Panax quinquefolius has been declared an endangered species in many states and provinces, as its wild habitat is being destroyed and the crops, which take a long time to reach maturity, are being over harvested.

In the 1700s, pioneers first discovered the root on Western soil, though it had already been in use for centuries in Native American culture. Word had spread that China was willing to pay high prices for the root, and in a conquest to save a new country that was struggling to expand and survive at the time, the root quickly became one of the most widely exported crops throughout the next two centuries.

Fortunately, the climate in the Ozark and Appalachian are thought to be similar to the Chinese mountains where Panax ginseng had previously inhabited. Because the two plants are so closely related, it’s no wonder that this environment was a favorable place for it to grow.

Panax ginseng is now thought to be extinct in the wild, only available from cultivated crop, overharvested in the wild from those seeking its renowned power and medicinal benefits.

Unfortunately, Panax quinquefolius is following closely in its footsteps, with many of the few remaining wild patches remaining under a critically endangered status in many states and provinces.

Because of the two-century long gold rush of wild American ginseng, the plant’s population has dramatically decreased, which is significant for a plant that takes anywhere from 5 to 15 years to be considered mature. Now, between overharvesting, destruction of habitat, and a changing climate, there is little hope for the wild population of P. quinquefolius unless we step up our conservation efforts.

In 1975, American states began regulating the harvest of ginseng to save the wild species, but illegal harvesting is still a prominent problem today. We are witnessing a wild plant species on the edge of extinction, struggling to survive outside of cultivation.

Of course, because of its rarity, the price people are willing to pay has skyrocketed, which means illegal harvesting – also known as crop poaching – has become a serious problem. A single root may reach prices of $1,000, but the risk has had to increase as well. States have taken to passing regulations that warrant jailtime and thousands of dollars in fines depending on the state and severity of the crime.

Reproduction and Lifespan of American Ginseng

Ginseng grows new plants from the seed, which is contained within the bright red berries that are produced after pollination of the umbel flowers. Each berry may contain one to two seeds and must generally undergo a process called stratification before the seeds are considered viable.

This is a process that seeds undergo, preparing the embryonic leaf inside each seed, the cotyledon, to weaken and break free from the seed coat. For seed dormancy to break, it must undergo the natural conditions that occur natively in the wild, whether the seeds are wild or cultivated.

This process can be simulated indoors or out, and can be done differently according to the seed type, but it often requires allowing the seeds to sit through a season of cold, slightly moist conditions before it can break dormancy.

Ginseng is considered truly mature after anywhere between 5 and 15 years of growth, though it reaches maturity enough to produce berries at 4 or 5 years of growth. Cultivated roots are considered able to be harvested at about 3 years.

The number of leaves, or individual stems called “prongs” has also been useful in determining the age of wild ginseng. (4) A plant that has 3 leaves or prongs are at least 5 years old, whereas a 10-year old plant will have 4 prongs.

Ginseng roots can be aged before removing them from the ground by simply removing the soil around the area where the plant’s rhizome joins the root.

FWS.gov

Educating legal foragers of how to tell the age of a ginseng plant has proven valuable in aiding conservation efforts, as plants do not need to be pulled from the ground to be able to inspect the root neck.

References
  1. Fei Yang, Panax notoginseng for Cerebral Ischemia: A Systematic Review, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32907361/
  2. Andrew Scholey, Effects of American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) on Neurocognitive Function, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2952762/
  3. gov, Import Alert on Siberian Ginseng, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_143.html
  4. Holly Kays, Protecting Mountain Gold: Balsam Uses Dye to Thwart Ginseng Poachers, https://smokymountainnews.com/archives/item/20633-protecting-mountain-gold-balsam-uses-dye-to-thwart-ginseng-poachers
  5. gov, How to Determine the Age of Ginseng Plants, https://www.fws.gov/International/plants/how-to-determine-the-age-of-ginseng-plants.html

 

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About Destynnie K. Berard
I am a lifelong naturalist who believes a good sense of humor is essential to staying happy. ★ After traveling for years, I settled in New England, falling in love with the diverse landscape the Northeast has to offer, and began pursuing conservation in earnest. ★ My career background is in enterprise marketing and communications, which provides me with a unique perspective of ecological relationships.

1 Comment

  1. Bach

    A great post without any doubt.

    Reply

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