Black Cohosh or Doll’s Eyes? Companion Look A-Likes

Black Cohosh or Doll’s Eyes?

Trying to differentiate these two woodland herbs, before they come into bloom, has been frustrating. It’s very easy to tell once they begin blooming. But when only greenery exists, they both look so much alike, it’s uncanny. This is the first year I’ve had two colonies of both to watch as they mature.  My “intuition” tells me which is which so I want see if I can confirm my psychic inference, lol. In the meantime, I’ve been doing research online to see if anyone else can offer definitive proving methods.

I thought I’d found one way in a study posted online at the Canadian Universe’ Laval site – but in the end it proved inconclusive. The study, while not about differentiating the plants, is quite interesting if you would like to know the metal/mineral composition of various woodland herbs grown under different conditions.

It was the picture that caught my eye- an image of the symmetrical vs. asymmetrical leaf patterns on the cohosh. I’d never noticed that before about them, and though “ah-ha! That might be the difference.” But of course it wasn’t that easy. Both the plants I suspect to be black cohosh and the ones I suspect to be doll’s eyes have this same leaf pattern. It’s probably common to the Actaea genus.

Going to the Woods for Research

So it was time to go out for a little hands-on research. I took the 4-wheeler out to an area where I know both of the plants live. Along with the black cohosh and doll’s eyes, there’s also a bunch of other woodland herbs that enjoy this little ginseng habitat. I was glad to have on long sleeves and pants because the nettles are up a ready to sting right about now.

stinging nettle

Sting-filled hairs of a nettle plant.

I moseyed around in the ginseng habitat (this particular habitat doesn’t have any ginseng residents, however), looking at the two that are puzzling me. None of what I think are black cohosh have any signs of a flower stem yet. None of the ones I think are doll’s eyes did either – except one. I did finally find one of those with a small flower stem and bud cluster.

Doll's Eyes with flower buds.

Doll’s Eyes with flower buds.

Now I am going to be curious to see if the ones I think are black cohosh turn out to really be the cohosh.

When I’m in the woods inspecting and photographing plants like this, I am often right down on the ground at eye level with stem bases. It’s hard to get good photos of short plants if you don’t do that, and besides, the bases of stems often have clues like leaf buds and such. And besides all that, I just love being in close contact with the forest floor. The smells are wonderful and it’s usually cooler closer to the ground level on hot days.

Most importantly, though, is that if you’re not close to the ground you’ll miss things like this wild ginger bloom, which only happens at or just below ground/leaf debris level.

Wild ginger flower

Wild ginger flower

The sun slipped over the mountains while I was still crawling around uphill and lying prone among the nettles, black and blue cohosh, and doll’s eyes. The woods were so dark now I needed a flash to get a good photo of this pretty fern on my way out.



I’ll have to wait for the black cohosh to flower, but I think I can see, or rather, sense, the differences early on. The plants *told* me, in that way non-human things “talk” (some of you will understand this, some of you will just think I’m nuts, I know…and some will call it “intuition”), who was who from the beginning, but my skepticism persists. I still do not entirely trust that little voice and the logical part of me wants evidence. It’ll come in a month or two when the black cohosh blooms. When it comes to using herbs medicinally or as food, where a look-alike is deadly, I’ll never rely on intuition alone.

Satisfied enough for now, I got up and brushed off the humusy forest soil and leaves from my clothes and headed home to see how many ticks I’d managed to gather this time.

A Photogenic Anemone

Saw this on my way back and knew it would make a good photo with the creek behind it.

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)


 Huntsville Farmer’s Market

I’m out at the market today from 0700-1200. If you’re local or within a decent driving distance, come out! I’ll have a selection of our native woodland plants. Not too many ginseng plants with me, but I will have goldenseal, bloodroot, blue cohosh, a few pointer ferns, trilliums and a couple of Dutchman’s breeches. Oh, and I’ll have the American Ginseng & Companions DVD’s and the two ginseng paperback books I wrote.


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Sleuthing the Bellwort. Sessilifolia or Perfoliata?

Sessilifolia or Perfoliata?

Three species of bellwort are found in Arkansas: Uvularia grandiflora, U. sessilifolia, and U. perfoliata. The one I see most often around here is the grandiflora, or Large-flowered bellwort as it’s commonly called.

Bellwort often grows in the ginseng habitat, which makes it one of the ginseng companion plants, but it can tolerate more sun and is sometimes found in places ginseng won’t grow. It likes at least light shade and rich, moist soil with lots of rotted leaf debris. It is the combination of deep shade, moist soil, and nice layer of rotted leaf debris that gives the ginseng habitat its unique characteristics.

Large bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

Large bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora)

There’s a spot along our county road that is sometimes sprayed with herbicides. The first time this happened, I mourned the loss of a large wild raspberry bramble I used to visit often when it fruited. Had I known it would get sprayed, I would have transplanted many of the plants that live there, including the raspberries. That raspberry is the only red raspberry bramble I know of in our area, although the plant itself is supposed to be fairly common in the Ozarks.

The entire 500 yard stretch is home to so many of the various woodland plants I love to watch. The little ecosystem is regaining health now and even some of the raspberries have returned, but soon it’ll be in danger of elimination again because of that robust growth.

This year I noticed a colony of small bellworts blooming and decided I’d move some of them in case the spray happened again this year. I knew they were bellworts, but wasn’t sure of the species. I’d never seen these kinds before. They weren’t the usual yellow bellworts I normally see.

When I got back to the house I potted some of them up for the nursery and planted some in the habitat near the nursery. Then I set about making a proper identification. According to my copy of the Atlas of Vascular Plants of Arkansas, it would probably be Uvularia sessilifolia, since the perfoliata isn’t known to be in our county.  However, I’ve found other plants not known to be in our county, so that didn’t necessarily help.

What’s in a Name?

Hmmm. With no pictures in the book to give a clue, I wondered about those last names. What did they mean? The latin words used in scientific names are usually full of visual clues if you know what they mean. Time to pull out the dictionary to see what sessile meant. I already knew perfoliata.

“Sessile” means the leaf is directly connected to the stem without a little stem of its own. “Perfoliata” means the stem runs through the leaf, making it appear to be perforated by the stem. Now that I had these meanings to go on, I couldn’t remember whether the leaves were attached or whether the stem ran through. So I had to go take a look. They weren’t right outside the back door so that meant taking the 4-wheeler and the camera and heading back down the driveway.

Sessile Bellwort (Uvularia sessilfolia)

Sessile Bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia). This is a smaller and more dainty variety than the yellow Large-flower Bellwort I usually see.

Turns out it is Sessile. I had hoped it was U. perfoliata, because that one is endangered and rare to find. But this one is beautiful, too. One of the common names for it is “Fairy Bells”, which I like.

I may have a few of these at market next week, but they might be finished blooming by then.




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An Entourage of Green Ambassadors

Show and Tell

I took my little assembly of show and tell items, and a small entourage consisting of three Green Ambassadors on the road yesterday. We, or at least *I*, had been invited to speak to the Olli Group at Bordino’s on Dickson St. in Fayetteville. At the time, they didn’t know about the ambassadors that usually accompany me on such appointments, ha.

Closer view of ginseng yearling.

A ginseng yearling.

Green Ambassadors

I’m one of those people who talk to plants and other things that generally don’t talk back. Well, I think they *do*, but not in the way people talk to each other. Anyway, I’ve told all the plants that I’ve potted up for sale at the market that they are the ambassadors for the plants of an endangered habitat. It’s my job to try to encourage people love them enough to want to restrain themselves from logging the deep woods and maintain proper conditions for these plants to grow. But it’s their job to stand up and be interesting when I need to bring them along for show-and-tell dates.

The Green Ambassadors that came today were ginseng, since that was the focus of the talk. A yearling, a two-prong, and a three-prong, to represent the rest of their kind back home in the deep woods. They behaved graciously as they were passed around in their little pots to be examined closely during the meal.

Bloodroot also came along in the form of a rhizome I brought to show them how it gets its name. After snapping it in half to demonstrate the “bleeding” it does, one of the Olli members, Ned (who is also the one who invited me to give the talk), pocketed the two halves to bring home to plant in his shade garden.

Book Me and the Green Ambassadors

Click here and fill out the form if you’d like me to bring some Green Ambassadors from the ginseng habitat to visit your group. I can usually be bribed with good food, and if you’re outside northwest Arkansas, travel expenses and lodging. Payment when possible is always welcomed, but if you don’t have the budget, don’t let the lack stop you from asking.

 Confrontation at the pond

I’ll end today’s post with a lead line to a little story about the turtle the dogs and I encountered today. The rest of the post is at my FB page. Come on over and visit a little while if you have more time :)

I had an interesting event while out looking for the horses. First I went up by the pond to see if they’d gone that way….

Posted by Wild Ozark on Friday, April 17, 2015


A good-sized snapping turtle that was at the gate one day several years ago.


P.S. I am sooooo glad I took a few moments to proofread this post before making it live. I don’t know why, but I keep mistakenly calling “Bordino’s” “Bordello’s” instead. Do you know what a bordello is? Just as I was getting ready to hit ‘publish’, I noticed that I wrote “Bordello’s” instead. I did NOT go to the bordello for lunch. I went to Bordino’s!

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Sun Splashes, Tree Silhouettes and Flowering Woodland Herbs

The day was dreary for the most part, but just before sunset the sky brightened. And so I went out with the camera and managed to get a few photos of some of the flowering woodland herbs in the ginseng habitat before it got too dark.

Diversions While Checking the Mail

I’d gone to check the mail, but I became distracted (as I so often do) and stopped at the little ginseng habitat along the way. The blue cohosh and goldenseal are already blooming. Young ginseng plants still have tightly fisted flower stalks and the giant Solomon’s seal is getting taller every day while holding onto dangling flower buds until later.

I’ll add the plant pics to the “Ginseng Through the Seasons” page when I get a chance, since these are all companion plants.

Sun Splashed Mountainsides

When I was almost back to the house, rays of sun came out from beneath the clouds at the western horizon and washed over the eastern mountainsides.

A photo of sunset in the ozarks.

Sun splashed mountainside.

And then the sun dropped almost below the ridgeline and gave me a nice silhouette of the trees in front of the house.

Silhouette of the trees.

Tree silhouette

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Does Ginseng Stewardship Benefit the Landowner?

Someone asked me yesterday about how ginseng stewardship benefits the landowner. It stumped me at first, because I’d never considered it from that angle.

Ginseng unfurling in spring,  from article on ginseng stewardship.

Ginseng unfurling in spring.

What is Stewardship?

To steward something is to manage or take care of something. The short answer to this post’s question is that stewardship really only benefits the landowner if they want to have a long-term relationship with ginseng.

The word “relationship” is key to the true meaning of that answer, as you’ll begin to understand when I describe what I consider to be ginseng stewardship, farther down the page.

Obviously, it benefits the ginseng for someone to think of it as a long-term resident and not just as a root occupying space in their forest for the next 5-10 years.

How Does Ginseng Stewardship “Work”?

In this example, I’m talking about wild-simulated ginseng, and not ginseng grown as a woodland crop that is tended in the way a gardener tends vegetables. The wild-simulated ginseng will generally be left to fend for itself once the seed is planted. Stewardship comes into play the moment you decide to give it, and the future generations of it, space in the forest to call home – not just a 5-year lease on a plot of ground in the woods to be terminated en masse at will.

The Wild Ozark Stewardship Plan

If a landowner begins planting ginseng in year 1, then plants every year thereafter, in 7-10 years it would be a good time to start digging roots. It’s legal in 5, but the roots are still small then. Let’s just say you wait 10 years and each year you planted seeds. By the time year 10 rolls around, the ones you planted for the first 7 years will be flowering and producing seeds and offspring (they begin reproducing in year 3). If you did this without fail each year, barring a disaster of some sort, you’d have quite a lot of ginseng growing and reproducing.

Now when you harvest in year 10, only take ½ or less of each colony’s reproducing  adult plants. Each colony should have at least 100 plants total (of mixed ages). Replant the seeds from the ones you harvest. Done in this way you will always have ginseng for the rest of your life and the lives of your children and your grandchildren because the colonies would be self-sustaining and taking your percentage won’t cause them to decline until all you have is a few.

Ginseng in spring, a little more unfurled by the end of the day,  from article on ginseng stewardship.

Ginseng in spring, a little more unfurled by the end of the day.

Here on our property, the suitable spots aren’t large enough to plant full acres worth. Each spot is a little microclimate of perfect conditions, and the largest area like this is only a few thousand square feet at most.

So we plant these pockets as we find them, if there isn’t already ginseng on them (it’s my attempt to avoid genetic pollution). We haven’t started harvesting our own roots yet; we’re still on the 10-year plan and only dig a few for personal use. The ones we planted several years ago are now reproducing and we’re replanting those seeds in the same colonies and in a few more years those spots will all be ready for us to start harvesting a percentage of the reproducing plants.

Most of our forests had been logged at some point before we bought it and so they’re only just now beginning to recover and create stands suitable for ginseng again.

There are studies, (here’s a link to the abstract of one), that shows delaying harvest only a couple of weeks and taking only a certain percentage will lead to sustainability. I’ve read before that taking even 50% of the adult plants in a colony will not do it harm the sustainability of the colony if the seeds from those plants are planted back at the time of harvest in the same colony space.

The Setbacks that Can (and Do) Occur

However, you’ll also have to take into consideration the deer and poaching and other animal predation, or severe weather conditions that can take out a percentage of your colony. One year we had a pretty bad ice storm that took out the tops and felled of a lot of trees. In one of our largest good habitat areas (this one consisted of acres, actually, and not just little pockets) that had been planted, this destroyed the colonies because it let in too much sunlight and then the poison ivy and underbrush choked it all out. That ice storm would need to be factored in before deciding how many plants the colony could afford to lose in harvest. In this case it was none.

3 prong ginseng unfurling, from article on ginseng stewardship

3 prong ginseng unfurling

What is Not the Kind of Stewardship I Meant

Of course, people can and do plant and dig all of the reproducing legal adults from the beds they’ve established. And then replant, just like any other crop. Just like growing a tree farm that is clear-cut and replanted. This treats it more as an agricultural product, which just isn’t how I want to interact with our forests. In the strictest sense of the definition, this is still “stewardship”. But this isn’t the kind of stewardship I meant. What I had in mind was more… generous, I guess? There’s a word for it, I can’t think of it right now, though. I just prefer a more natural approach.

In Summary

In the end, it seems stewardship does less to serve the person than it does to serve the thing being “stewarded”.

I suppose, if money is the bottom line, this may sound like bad business.

For Wild Ozark, though, and for those who enjoy participating in the kind ginseng stewardship I’ve outlined, it’s not just about the money.

It’s about stepping out of an anthropocentric worldview.

It’s about having a mutually beneficial relationship with the land.


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A Ginseng Sanctuary at the Compton Gardens in Bentonville

three bear statue

Three Bears at Compton-Peel Gardens

Wild Ozark is honored and excited to be embarking on a project in conjunction with Compton Gardens in Bentonville, Arkansas. This American Ginseng Sanctuary project is made possible, in part, by a grant from the United Plant Savers.

 Progress Updates

I’ll update this timeline each time we do work on the habitat and hyperlink it to the bottom of the page where more details and photos will be added. When I do that, I’ll revise the post date and it’ll cause this to show up as a new blog post each time.

In April next year we hope to have our very first Unfurling Party and we hope you will attend!



Origin Story

It all started near the end of November 2014 with an introduction made by a mutual friend, Terry Stanfill. Once he put me in contact with Corrin Troutman, a grand plan began to take root. Corrin is the Director of Operations for the gardens. Luke Davis is the Site Manager. I emailed them my proposal – to install plants that make up a ginseng habitat in a suitable spot in their garden. My desire to do this stems from my own experiences in learning to identify ginseng and the proper type of forests where it likes to grow:

“When I first started learning to identify ginseng I went to the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View. They had specimen plants and also some Virginia creeper so I could see them nearly side-by side while I examined the difference. I know this sort of information may encourage people who seek ginseng for the roots. But it also inspires a love and appreciation for the very unique habitat these plants need to grow. It encourages others who have proper habitat to restore ginseng to it, and those who do intend to harvest can do so with a sustainable frame of mind.” – from my letter to Corrin proposing the project.

The excitement began to build shortly thereafter. Once I knew Compton gardens were on board, I sent a proposal to the United Plant Savers. To my surprise and delight, Dr. Susan Leopold, Executive Director of UPS wrote back and admitted to being excited too!

Why So Excited?

I can tell you why *I’m* so excited by this project. It means an outdoor “classroom” in a public and protected place where I can “show and tell” about ginseng and the habitat. It means that others having a hard time figuring out the difference between ginseng and virginia creeper will have a place to go and see them both, with labels, in real life. It means that I’ll be able to combine my efforts with those of others to encourage stewardship and foster love of something basic to our American heritage – a plant that’s been at the heart of a tradition that spans centuries.

Ginseng unfurling in spring

Ginseng unfurling in April

As with most natural resources, when there is a demand, the desire to provide a supply can cause a crisis. Digging by the traditionals isn’t the activity causing the concern. The traditionals have managed their plots for generations without depleting their supply.

Newcomers who may not understand the fragility of the ecosystem ginseng calls home, and those who aren’t considering the future or the impact of today’s behavior on tomorrow’s yield are only part of the challenges presented to the survival of this plant, but it’s a very large part.

Because it needs a specific environment to thrive, when the loss of even one tree can cause an imbalance, development and logging activity have a tremendous impact. And there are still yet other reasons ginseng’s status remains endangered.  Rising deer and turkey populations are a threat. Deer nibble the tops and turkey eat the seeds (which destroys it).

Private landowners can offer sanctuary and refuge to this species and Wild Ozark hopes that through this Ginseng Sanctuary Project at Compton we can encourage stewardship of American Ginseng.


“Compton Gardens and Conference Center are named after Dr. Neil Compton, a noted Bentonville physician, writer, photographer, founder of the Ozark Society, and savior of the Buffalo River.” – from the Compton Garden website


It is because of the spirit of this man I’ve never met that Compton Gardens were my first thought when considering where to embark upon this project. The Buffalo River valley offers many natural sanctuaries for ginseng. It seemed only fitting to re-create a sanctuary habitat in the place that once was the home of the man who rescued that river from man-made demise.

07 April 2015

We planted a few things finally! The weather has caused a bit of delay – winter wouldn’t go away and then spring brought copious rain. It was a small start, but I’ll go back in a week or so to bring some of the ginseng and some of the other plants on our wish-list. Today’s new sanctuary residents include grape fern, doll’s eyes, and goldenseal.

The ginseng sanctuary site

Not quite at ground-zero. A few companions already are here: Dutchman’s Breeches, Bloodroot, Giant Solomon’s Seal, and Wild Ginger.

luke and little davis

Luke Davis, Site Manager and Little Duke

me and corrin

Madison Woods of Wild Ozark (left) and Corrin Troutman, Director of Operations at Compton-Peel Gardens in Bentonville, Arkansas (right).
We were almost color-coordinated that day!





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Solomon’s Seal Unfurling

Solomon's Seal blooming

Solomon’s Seal blooming

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

There’s a nice patch of Solomon Seal at the front of the driveway that was so choked out last summer that I don’t think any of them got a chance to bloom. I was afraid they might not come back after that. And I wasn’t sure exactly which spot it was where they lived, so earlier while it was still winter I picked my best guess and cleared the briars.

On my way home from checking the mail the other day, I was very pleased to see that I was almost perfect in my guess – just a little bit off. Still, good enough to give them a fighting chance until I get another day to do more clearing and cutting of briars. The plan was to do a little transplanting of them today.

The heady scent of plum blossoms greeted me this morning. It was overcast and misty, and just a wee bit chilly but that kind of lighting is great for taking photos. Before I could get on to the Solomon’s Seal, there was something else I needed to do first. Yesterday I had dug up some Dutchman’s Breeches but didn’t get a chance to pot them up before the rain started, so that was the top thing on my list of things to do today.

After potting up the Breeches I went up to the front end of the driveway dug up some of the Solomon’s Seal. I moved some of the plants to the nursery spot to be sure they don’t all get choked out this year. And while I was at it, I potted up several to bring to market later on this month, too.

Unfurling solomon seal

Unfurling Solomon Seal

Here’s how the rhizomes look:

Solomon Seal showing Root


Growing It

Solomon’s Seal enjoys the same habitat as American Ginseng, but it can tolerate a little more sun. It will do well in full or dappled shade but not in deep shade. The soil should be well-drained and loamy. The spot where these have been for many years is on the dry side during the heat of summer, so it can tolerate more dryness than ginseng can as well. The rhizomes should be planted 1 to 3 inches deep.


This native woodland herb has a surprising (to me, anyway) history of medicinal use. The young shoots are supposed to be edible, but I haven’t tried them yet to give a first-hand report on how tasty they might be. Most of the information I’ve found online regarding its use as medicine is taken from sources talking about the European variety, however ours is similar and is supposed to have similar constituents. The berries will cause vomiting. Some sources say they’re poisonous, some say to use them for causing vomiting. I’d say more research is needed on that use.

Here’s a quick list of ways it has been used by native Americans and herbalists from the Old World. Please do your own research before experimenting with herbs as food or medicine (see disclaimer at bottom of page):

  • to heal external bruises, make a poultice of leaves and root
  • to heal internal bruises, make a decoction and mix with wine to drink (eeww – I think whiskey or bourbon might be better, or just honey maybe)
  • to encourage broken bones to knit, take the root decoction
  • roots can be baked like a starchy vegetable and eaten (after boiling in 3 changes of water!)
  • young shoots can be eaten like asparagus
  • roots decoction good for stomach inflammation, piles, dysentery
  • to stop excessive menstruation (doesn’t specify which parts)
  • may decrease blood sugar levels (keep in mind if using insulin or if you are hypoglycemic)

And one of the most interesting uses I saw mentioned was as incense. Apparently if the root is dried and burned as incense it will ensure a sound night’s sleep. I’m planning to try this one. Sleep is an issue for me lately. I’ll let you know how it worked!

Sources of information:


I am not a medical professional. The information on the web site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat or prescribe any condition. The FDA does not approve of anything on this web site.


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April 2015 Newsletter

Welcome to the April 2015 Newsletter from Wild Ozark! For a plant lover, spring is an exciting time of year. This morning I found trout lilies blooming and blue cohosh unfurling! I try to get out to the woods every day to see what’s new that I didn’t see the day before.

trout lily at Wild Ozark

trout lily at Wild Ozark


Business is Good


This month has been a great month for business. Our website visits are increasing which leads to book sales increasing which leads to my ability to invest more money back into the business, which leads to being able to offer better and greater products to you. For example, this month I purchased a new software to help me create better slide-shows of the photographs I’ve been collecting. There is no Wild Ozark herb safe from the camera now, haha. American Ginseng & Companions is the first to benefit from the new software.

Discount for DVD

American Ginseng & Companions isn’t available at Amazon yet but I’m in the process of getting it listed there. The “real” DVD will be $20, the On-Demand version will be around $5. I can’t say what they will set the price at, but that was my suggestion. Rentals will be less than that. Newsletter subscribers get a substantial discount on the “real” item. They’re $10 with this coupon code (“ginseng dvd”) through our online shop. I’ll sell them for $10 at the market in Huntsville or anytime in person after presentation. Before you run out and buy one, though, subscribe to my mailing list and get in on the FREE offer. It’s discussed a bit farther down in the newsletter under the “Business is Bad – DVD issues” heading.

Update since original newsletter release: DVD’s at Amazon will be listed for $15 rather than $20. Online price at website will also be $15. Newsletter subscribers can still use the coupons to get it for $10. 

Click on the image to go to the shop if you want to check it out:

DVD cover for American Ginseng & Companions

I Was Interviewed

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Monica Johnson of east TX. She drove out here and took a little walkabout with me, then we visited with the ginseng buyer Trevor Mills from Harrison, AR. I’m eager to read the article she wrangles from all the good conversation we had over the course of two days.

Freelance Writing

I’ve been contacted by a new magazine about life in the Ozarks, to possibly become a contributing writer. This is exciting. The magazine’s premiere issue was recently released and if I make it on board, I’ll surely be letting you all know where it can be found. It’s a print magazine, not an online thing, which is something I’m glad for.

Business is Bad

Possible Ginseng Failure

I am growing increasingly worried that none or very few of the ginseng seeds we planted in fall are going to sprout. Usually by this time any leftover seeds I have in the refrigerator have long since sprouted and demanded to be planted. None of them have done so. The seeds don’t appear to be dead, just stubborn. So I’m thinking they’ll sit over in the ground this year and sprout next year. This always is the case with a percentage of them, but not normally most of them.

Updated since original newsletter release: I have learned that you can’t keep the seeds in the refrigerator so long or else they will go dormant. It’s best to keep them in layers of sand outside in a cool and sheltered place if you can’t plant them right away. The seeds I have aren’t dead, they just might not sprout this year. (Thanks to Dennis at Ozark Mountain Ginseng for this information!) Next year they should all sprout on schedule. I’ll have some seedlings to sell at market this year, just not so many as I’d planned for.

But obviously, this is bad for the nursery business. I know many of you were looking forward to ginseng seedlings this spring. All I can do is wait and see at this point. At any rate, I’ll have goldenseal, bloodroot, and other of the woodland companions at market. Just not too sure about the ginseng at this point. The strawberry jar at the bottom of this email is planted with companion plants and will feature a ginseng on the top. When it fills out it should be pretty unique and pretty to look at.

DVD issues

The first attempt at burning the new American Ginseng & Companions produced mixed results. The disks worked fine on my own DVD player, but wouldn’t even start on others. Then the text was too blurry, even on my own. So I decided to offer it free to those who would be willing to answer a survey afterwards or leave a review if it worked for them. Since I try to only send this newsletter out once a month, I wasn’t able to get this word to you unless you happened to see it on Facebook or my website. But you can get it free now and give me the feedback if you like.

If you’re already a subscriber, you got the code with the April newsletter that went to your inbox. If you’re a new subscriber, email me ( to get the code. The coupon is only good until April 8, 2015. The test rounds that went out last week came back with mostly good responses, so I’m going to cut it loose and let it fly now but your responses will be helpful to me in case there are issues I’ve missed. As far as I know, I haven’t actually “sold” the DVD to anyone yet; they’ve all been free. However, if you are a subscriber and you paid for the DVD I’ll refund your money since I’m making this free offer now. The offer is good until April 8. The USB’s have worked fine. It’s only been the DVD’s that gave me trouble.

Interesting links & articles by others

From ANPS: Know Your Natives – Bloodroot (

Here’s one of the best collections of photography of Arkansas Plants I’ve ever seen: – These are all by Craig Frasier. The only drawback is that there’s no way to search by name or color, but in scrolling through the images I’ve found many of the plants I just needed some second verification on to get a positive id.

Speaking Gigs


I’ll be at the Olli Birthday Luncheon at 11:30 on April 16 at Bordino’s on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. If you’d like to attend to hear my presentation on the ginseng habitat and ginseng we’d love to see you there. I’ll have copies of the DVD’s and some books and other things there. I’m not sure, but I might be able to pass around the slide-show on my Galaxy during the talk so people can get a look at what it is. It’ll be an informal event. I’ll try to bring some plants to pass around, some dried roots to taste, and some photos of the companion plants. The attendees can ask questions and get to know this precious habitat a little better. I’ll also talk some about our project at Compton Gardens in Bentonville. Meals are around $10 and I’ll need to have a headcount, so if you plan to attend, let me know.


Trevor Mills of Mills Ginseng in Harrison Arkansas is trying to organize an event. If you know anyone who could sponsor or participate in a traditional skill/sustainability/survival/mountain man(woman) type of convention drop him a note at his FB page. I’m planning to be a vendor/speaker/presenter at this, but we are not certain about the dates yet and I may be out of pocket during the summer when he might want to do it.

March Blog Post Index

That’s all folks!

This was a pretty lengthy newsletter, so thank you if you managed to read the whole thing :)

I hope to meet many of you at the farmer’s market this year. The opening day is April 21, at the Huntsville Town Square, from 7-12. It’ll be every Tuesday and Saturday 7-12. My booth should be somewhere near the gazebo so I can have electricity. I’m going to bring a television and run the DVD on it during the market hours so if you want a preview before buying it, or just want to stand around and watch the whole thing there for free, come on by!

trout lilies and dutchman breeches awaiting market

trout lilies and dutchman breeches awaiting market

Forest companions in a strawberry jar

Forest companions in a strawberry jar

Bloodroot and others awaiting market

Bloodroot and others awaiting market



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bloodroot flowers

Potting up Goldenseal

This is my beautiful workspace today where I’m potting up goldenseal, trout lilies and trying in vain to find any of the previously potted ginseng seeds sprouting. Wild Ozark potting table

I’m thinking this year is going to be a poor one for new ginseng. That’s going to be a hard hit on our new Wild Ozark Nursery, unfortunately.

However, I should still have plenty goldenseal, bloodroot and trout lilies to bring to market on April 21. And of course, I’ll have copies of the American Ginseng & Companions DVD’s and USB’s, along with my other books Sustainable Ginseng and the DIY Ginseng Habitat Assessment Guide.

And I’m putting companion plants in the side pockets of those strawberry jars with a ginseng plant on top. This is an experiment, but I hope it works and the plants like growing in them because I think it would be a great market item if they do well.

Potting Goldenseal

Today’s main goal was transplanting the goldenseal that I dug yesterday into pots so I can bring them to market. The tops aren’t showing above-ground anywhere yet, but the unfurling is quietly beginning beneath the dead leaf cover. If you’re planting them in the ground, the steps are the same, just skip the pot.

potting goldenseal step 1

Fill the pot 2/3 full.

Potting Goldenseal Step 2

Spread out the roots on top of the soil. If it’s a large rhizome, the root should be mostly horizontal with the bud pointing skyward.

Potting Goldenseal Step 3

Cover the roots but leave the bud exposed. When you’re done with this step, cover the pot and bud with crumbled dead leaves.

Here’s some of my other posts to do with goldenseal and other herbs:


Other Plants Sprouting and Unfurling or Blooming in the Nursery

The blue cohosh seeds appear to have sprouted, at least, and the bloodroot is already up and blooming. And the Dutchmen’s Breeches are blooming, too. It’s too bad these won’t be still in bloom by the time the market starts. I’ll have to print and laminate a picture of them so people can know what to expect if they’ve never seen them before. The bloodroot might still be in bloom, but maybe not.

Blue Cohosh seedling

The blue cohosh seedling is unfurling.


Mayapple Unfurling

Mayapple Unfurling

Dutchmen's Breeches blooming

Dutchmen’s Breeches blooming

bloodroot flowers

Bloodroot flowers

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New Wild Ozark Pages About Ginseng

ginseng with ripe berriesI created a couple of pages about ginseng on the site today that you might find interesting. Since they don’t post automatically to the social media or go out to subscriber’s inboxes, I thought I should also post them here:

5 ways to tell if you can grow ginseng in your backyard

5 Ways to Tell if You Can Grow American Ginseng in Your Backyard



ginseng seeds sprouting in spring

Ginseng seeds sprout in April.

Ginseng Through the Seasons

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