STATEWIDE — With Sept. 1 marking the start of ginseng harvest season, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) issued a warning regarding overharvesting of the popular plant.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) grows in deciduous forests (or those in which the trees shed their leaves during the year) throughout 19 different states. It is noted as having been harvested by various Native American tribes for medicinal purposes. FWS notes that the American ginseng plant and its root have been harvested for international trade since the mid-18th century.
As a result of its popularity, laws have been put into place to protect the plant and its root from overharvesting. VDACS is responsible with enforcing regulations that are related to the harvesting and sale of American Ginseng in the Commonwealth.
Harvesting wild ginseng on most public lands in Virginia is strictly prohibited, including state and national parks and forests. On lands where it is not prohibited, harvesters are required to obtain a permit from the appropriate office or agency before doing so. Violation of Virginia’s harvesting regulations is punishable by imprisonment of up to twelve months, up to a $2,500 fine, or both.
Additionally, harvesting on federal lands is strictly prohibited. Anyone caught doing so could face a fine of up to $5,000, six months in jail, or both.
Those wishing to harvest the American Ginseng plant on private property must obtain written permission from the property’s owner prior to removal.
Harvesting season for the plant lasts Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 each year. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, the harvesting of wild ginseng is strictly prohibited throughout Virginia. Wild ginseng plants that are younger than five years, have fewer than four stem scars present on its root neck (rhizome) or fewer than three prongs cannot harvested.
According to VDACS, a person who harvests wild ginseng must plant seeds harvested from the plant at the site when the harvest occurs.
It is important to note that those who harvest off of their private property are not subject to these regulations. However, they are encouraged to follow the same size, age and seed planting guidelines.
In Virginia, individuals who ship or transport eight ounces or greater of wild ginseng throughout a calendar year must seek ginseng certification from VDACS. Those who buy or accept it must obtain the necessary license to do so.
For more information, visit the website for VDACS.