Features of wild American ginseng
Wild ginseng plants occur naturally and are difficult to hunt. The plant has a single stem that ends with a single point that the leaves originate from. This point, or whorl as it is called, usually has 1 to 4 leaves. Each leaf usually has 3 to 5 leaflets. The plant also changes as it grows. Young plants typically have 3 leaflets. More mature plants have a greater number of leaves (between 6 and 20) as well as whitish green flowers, which eventually produce red ginseng berries.
Wild ginseng is also characterized by knurls and noticeable growth rings on the root. The older the plant, the more potent and valuable it is. This can be determined by counting the nicks or grooves on the neck. For every year of growth, a stem scar or nick appears on the root neck of the plant. The minimum age for harvest is 4 to 5 years. Typical wild ginseng roots are usually aged between 10 and 30 years. Roots that are 20 years old are rare, 30 to 40 even rarer, and those above 50 - extremely rare and prized.
Natural habitats for wild American ginseng
American ginseng is typically found in the hardwood forests of North America, Southern Canada, West to Oklahoma and South Dakota, and South to Georgia. The plant thrives in well-shaded areas of moist hardwood. The presence of large hardwood trees and a full canopy that shades out shrubs and briars enable the plant to grow easily, without competition from others. They are also commonly found in forests that beech, maple, oak wood, and basswood trees as these woods provide adequate shade necessary for the growth of ginseng. Also, within forests, they can be found abundantly in deep, dark soil that is loose and covered with fallen leaves. The plant may be solitary, or can be found in patches of different growth maturity.
When harvesting wild American ginseng
Most ginseng harvest is bound by state laws, rules, and regulations. Though they are permitted in many regions, it is mandatory to obtain prior permission from the authorities before you begin harvest. Harvesting of wild ginseng ( https://www.hsuginseng.com/us/control/GenInfoPages?Mname=AboutHsu ) in national parks is strictly prohibited.
Wild ginseng is threatened, and so any harvest that is done needs to be sustainable. This can be done by harvesting only mature plants with at least 3 leaf prongs and ripe berries, and re-sowing ginseng seeds close to the parent plant. Also, leaving at least 2/3rds of the growth untouched helps these plants reproduce easily and mature into healthy ones in further years.