“Sustainable Ginseng” is a book I’ve written to share information about growing wild-simulated, or virtually-wild, ginseng. I also have a picture book available for Kindle that shows many of ginseng’s companion plants. It’s called “Wild Ozark Herbs”. Click either cover to view the book at Amazon.
One of the most queried searches that bring people to this page is “How To Find Ginseng”. With this article I will tell you about the companion plants of ginseng, because knowing them will make it easier to find ginseng. Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) can be a difficult plant to spot. I’ve spoken to many people who have never found it on their own even though they stood side-by-side with someone else who could point it out to them. The plant seems to show itself to some but not to others.
My daughter is that way with arrowheads. When she and Kylan go hiking, he walks behind her picking up the ones she passes while she gets increasingly frustrated because she can’t see them. I’m like that with morel mushrooms. I cannot find them, even if I look exactly in the right kinds of spots. During spring morel hunts, my friends come back with bags of gathered morels and I stand there empty-handed. Not so with ginseng. I can find that one!
Finding the clues: Ginseng Companion Plants
On the first post about ginseng I talked about choosing the best site to plant. Those tips can also help you find ginseng if you’re hunting it. In that post I’d mentioned something called indicator plants, or ginseng companion plants.
Indicator plants are those plants, shrubs and trees that like to grow in the same sort of environment that ginseng likes to grow. I often have a very difficult time spotting the first ginseng plant when I start looking for it. They have a way of growing that makes them hard to see, but once you’ve found one it’s easier to find more. I think the first one somehow trains the eyes to see that form. It’s like this every time I go out. I have to find one first, then the rest become easier to see.
If you’re scouting woods for likely places to either plant or find it, here are a few of the plants you’ll want to keep an eye out for. They’re much easier to find than ginseng itself.
Before I could finish this post I had to hike out to one of my favorite spots to get a few more photos.
And before I could download the photos I had to take a shower with dishwashing liquid. I’m not terribly reactive to poison ivy, but when I go out for photos, I am often right down on the ground so I can get close up shots of things that are also close to the ground.
There’s a lot of poison ivy on the ground in my favorite spot. And ticks too. Poison ivy is NOT an indicator plant. In fact, if you see too much of it, it’s an indicator that there is probably too much sunlight in that location. And such was the case with my favorite spot until recently. However, it wasn’t always like that. Before the ice storm of 2009, there was dense shade in that little holler. During the ice storm many of the trees fell and tops were snapped off, which then let in much more sunlight than had been there prior.
It has taken nearly five years for the forest to recover to a point where the shade has returned to proper density. In the meantime, the ginseng suffered but it didn’t die except in the spots where a tree opened a gap to direct sunlight.
Most of the ginseng companion plants can tolerate more sunlight. Maidenhair and christmas ferns can tolerate more shade than can ginseng. But the ivy can also tolerate shade and thus it is still there even as the tree’s limbs have stretched to fill in the canopy. If we avoid more ice storms, it’ll eventually fade back toward the brighter areas and leave the deep shade alone.
If you’re still reading, it’s probably safe to assume that you are as enthusiastic about ginseng as I am. Please share the link to this page with your friends and if you’re on Twitter or Facebook, or participate in forums share the link there too. I’d like to encourage as many as possible to take the longer road to profit when it comes to growing and selling ginseng. Sign up for my mailing list to get notification when the book is available from Amazon, or when my short stories and other products are available.
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