Ginseng harvest season has begun

virginia-newThe Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announces the opening of the wild ginseng harvest season. Wild American ginseng is listed as a threatened species in Virginia and VDACS is responsible for regulating ginseng harvest and sales in the Commonwealth.

The root of the American ginseng plant is valued as a medicinal herb. During the 2013 season approximately 4,500 pounds of ginseng roots worth about $3.5 million dollars were harvested in Virginia.  The television series “Appalachian Outlaws” from the History Channel has spawned considerable interest in ginseng harvest. Ginseng roots are typically sold in pound quantities. It takes between 250 and 300 roots to acquire a pound of wild ginseng.

Individuals shipping or transporting ginseng from Virginia in amounts greater than eight ounces per year must have the ginseng certified by VDACS. Individuals buying or accepting ginseng to sell must obtain a license from VDACS.

Regulation of the Harvest and Purchase of Wild Ginseng includes the following provisions:

  • The harvest season for wild ginseng begins on September 1 and ends December 31 of each year. Wild ginseng cannot be harvested from January 1 through August 31.
  • Wild ginseng that is younger than five years of age, has fewer than four stem scars present on its rhizome or has fewer than three prongs cannot be harvested.
  • Any person who harvests wild ginseng must plant the seeds of the harvested plant at the harvest site at the time of harvest.

Individuals harvesting ginseng must obtain permission from the property owner from which the plants are being removed. Permission should be in writing and kept with the individual harvester at the time of harvest. A permit from the appropriate agency is required to harvest ginseng from public lands.

Violation of Virginia’s wild ginseng harvest regulations is punishable by either imprisonment for up to 12 months, fine of not more than $2,500, or both.  Collecting any portion of the plant, including the berries, for personal or commercial use from the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest is prohibited. Removing ginseng from the national forest comes with strict penalties, including a fine of up to $5,000, six months in jail, or both. Harvesters also may not remove ginseng from state forests or parks.

The regulations regarding the harvest of ginseng do not apply to any person harvesting wild ginseng from their own land. Landowners are encouraged to observe the same general guidelines in order to ensure the continued, long-term viability of wild ginseng on their property.

For more information, contact Keith Tignor, Office of Plant Industry Services, at 804.786.3515 orkeith.tignor@vdacs.virginia.gov.

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