Quantcast

Preserving an Appalachian Treasure: American Ginseng

[Editor's note: This article has been going viral on EcoWatch for days and has been very popular over the last many months. The article is from the 2009 August issue of EcoWatch Journal and the online format of the article is from an older version of our site. I thought with it's renewed popularity, it was best to provide it in our updated online format. Enjoy.]

American Ginseng, Panax Quinquefolius, is a long-lived understory herb found in the mesophytic forests of Appalachia. Ginseng was once native to China but over-harvesting of its species, Panax Ginseng, extirpated the populations. The Chinese have used the roots of the plants in medicinal preparations for thousands of years. Soon after the species was discovered in North America in the 1700s, the Chinese relied heavily on exports of American Ginseng. In the late 1700s, residents established a significant trade chain with the Orient and exported tremendous amounts of ginseng roots. More than 750,000 pounds of wild ginseng roots were exported in 1822 and ginseng sold for 42 cents a pound. It still remains an important component of the informal economy in Appalachia and prices of ginseng today range from $200 to a high of $1,500 a dried pound for the wild roots.

American Ginseng is still in need of protection in order to prevent over-harvesting and continue the economic value it has for the Appalachian region.

In the early 1900s, the ginseng community recognized the need to protect wild populations and enlisted two practices: laws and cultivation. Ginseng can be cultivated under shade cloth or wooded canopies. Northeastern Ohio had several ginseng farms in the early 1900s. The plant was so popular that a national and several state ginseng organizations were created to assist growers. Ohio passed House Bill 9 in 1915 that levied a penalty for the destruction or theft of ginseng. Today, wild ginseng is listed under Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species and ginseng trade is monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Legislation and cultivation have not been totally effective in protecting wild populations. Poaching has become very problematic for both ginseng growers and public land managers trying to secure wild ginseng. Harvesters are urged to abide by sustainable harvesting practices such as taking only mature plants (5 years or older), replanting the ripe berries in the forest, and abiding by harvest seasons. In an effort to protect cultivated ginseng, growers in Ohio have recently begun to seek state certification for Ohio growers. Currently two states have certification—Wisconsin and West Virginia. Certification means that cultivated plants could be distinguished from wild plants and would become exempt from regulations. It may also provide legal means for growers to access crop insurance for roots that are destroyed or stolen.

Ultimately, the long-term survival of this economically important and culturally significant Appalachian species and the future of ginseng trade is dependent on teaching harvesters sustainable practices and encouraging continued cultivation of the roots. Certification of growers is an important step.

For more information about sustainable harvesting techniques or certification efforts, contact Roots of Appalachia Growers Association.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular
Desperate for water, Puerto Ricans are resorting to any available sources, such as this stream in Cayey. Angel Valentin / NPR

Desperate Puerto Ricans Are Drinking Water From Hazardous Waste Sites

The ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee called for an investigation into the availability of potable water in Puerto Rico following reports Friday that residents are scrounging for water from hazardous waste sites.

After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed residents were trying to access water from three Superfund sites, and following a CNN story Friday featuring Puerto Ricans taking water from a fourth site, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke asking if she knew about the situation and calling the reports "beyond disturbing."

Keep reading... Show less
Brant at Izembek Lagoon. Kristine Sowl / USFWS

Groups Slam Zinke's 'Backroom Deals' to Build Road Through Alaskan Wildlife Refuge

Ryan Zinke's Interior Department is working behind the scenes to build a controversial and long-contested road through the heart of Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, documents show.

The refuge was established more than 30 years ago to conserve wetlands and habitats for migrating birds, brown bears and salmon and other wildlife. 300,000 of its 315,000 acres has been designated as Wilderness in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Keep reading... Show less
FAO / Giulio Piscitelli

On World Food Day, Pope Francis Says Link Between Climate Change and Hunger Is Undeniable

By Andrew McMaster

Speaking at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on World Food Day, Pope Francis addressed the need for governments around the world to acknowledge that climate change and migration were leading to increases in world hunger.

Francis received a standing ovation after a stirring speech in which he said all three issues were interrelated and require immediate attention.

Keep reading... Show less
The pallid bat is native to the western U.S., where the spread of white-nose syndrome is a threat. Ivan Kuzmin / Shutterstock

Why Are America's Bats Disappearing?

By John R. Platt

It's Friday evening in Pittsburgh, and the mosquitoes are out in force. One bites at my arm and I try to slap it away. Another takes the opportunity to land on my neck. I manage to shoo this one off before it tastes blood.

I'm at Carrie Furnaces, a massive historic ironworks on the banks of Pennsylvania's Monongahela River. Stories-tall rusting structures loom all around me, as do the occasional trees poking their way out of the ground. A tour guide, leading a group from the Society of Environmental Journalists conference, tells me the soil here is full of heavy metals and other pollutants from the factory, which operated for nearly a century before closing in 1982.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
The Amur tiger is the extinct Caspian tiger's closest living relative. Mathias Appel / Flickr

After a Half-Century, Tigers May Return to Kazakhstan

Wild tigers may be on their way back to Kazakhstan.

This news is surprising for a few reasons. First, most people associate tigers with the jungles of India or Sumatra, even the snowy slopes of eastern Russia—not the dry landscapes of Central Asia. But Iran, Turkey and Kazakhstan were once home to thriving populations of Caspian tigers. Unfortunately, sometime between the 1940s and '70s, this subspecies went extinct due to widespread trapping, hunting, poisoning and habitat degradation.

Second, Kazakhstan isn't a nation that often comes up in conversations about conservation. In fact, if Americans recognize the world's largest landlocked nation for anything, it's probably the movie Borat.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

California Wildfires: One of 'Greatest Tragedies' State Has Ever Faced

With aid from easing winds, the 11,000 firefighters beating back the Northern California wildfires are making "good progress," as the number of major blazes dropped to 15, the state's fire agency Cal Fire announced Sunday.

But as Cal Fire noted‚ "Sadly, the death toll has risen to 40 people."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Bonn Climate Change Conference, June 4 2015. UNclimatechange / Flickr.

UN Urges World Leaders to Heed Climate Risk, Warns of More Severe Disasters

By Paul Brown

The hurricanes and wildfires that have severely damaged large areas of the U.S. in recent weeks have had no impact on President Donald Trump's determination to ignore the perils of climate change and support the coal industry.

In a deliberate denial of mainstream science, the Trump administration has issued a strategic four-year plan for the U.S. Environment Protection Agency that does not once mention "greenhouse gas emissions," "carbon dioxide" or "climate change" in its 48 pages.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
www.youtube.com

Oil Rig Explodes in Louisiana: 7 Injured, 1 Missing

An oil rig exploded on Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana Sunday night, injuring seven crew members, with an eighth believed to be missing, authorities said.

The explosion was reported at 7:18 p.m. near St. Charles Parish and the city of Kenner. The platform, located in unincorporated Jefferson Parish, is owned by New Orleans-based Clovelly Oil Company.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox