Home Harvest of valuable ginseng regulated to protect plant, landowners

Harvest of valuable ginseng regulated to protect plant, landowners


virginia-newVirginia’s wild ginseng harvest has begun, and state officials have stepped up regulation of the valuable root. Wild American ginseng, which is considered a threatened plant species in Virginia, is currently worth as much as $1,200 a pound.

“I can remember almost 30 years ago when ginseng was bringing $300-$400 a pound, so it’s been valuable for a long time,” said Dennis Jones, Virginia Farm Bureau Federationassistant director of field relations. Wild ginseng grows on his family’s Tazewell County farm, and his father cultivated ginseng for years. When Jones’ father was unable to check on the ginseng regularly, people went onto his land and illegally dug up the plants. “You have to keep an eye out for poachers,” Jones warned.

Virginia’s wild ginseng harvest season began Sept. 1 and will run through the end of the year, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The agency is responsible for regulating ginseng harvest and sales in the commonwealth.

Last year about 5,700 pounds of ginseng roots were harvested in Virginia and valued at about $2.7 million. It takes between 250 and 300 roots to make a pound of wild ginseng, believed by users worldwide to have medicinal powers.

According to VDACS, wild ginseng that is younger than five years and has fewer than three prongs, which are stems with three-leaf clusters, cannot be harvested. Jones said it typically takes seven years after planting seeds before ginseng is mature enough to harvest. Any person who harvests wild ginseng must plant the seeds of the harvested plant at the harvest site at the time of harvest.

Anyone harvesting ginseng on privately owned land must get written permission from the property owner. Collecting any portion of the plant, including the berries, for personal or commercial use from the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest is prohibited.
Violation of Virginia’s wild ginseng harvest regulations is punishable by either imprisonment for up to 12 months, a fine of up to $2,500 or both. Removing ginseng from national forestland 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.

State regulations regarding the harvest of ginseng don’t apply to people harvesting wild ginseng on their own land.



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