Beginning in May 2017 there will be a place to go for anyone interested in seeing ginseng growing in a natural environment.
The Wild Ozark Ginseng Garden
This is a true wild habitat where you can see and learn about American ginseng in a natural environment.
A Re-Established Habitat
A few decades ago this land was logged but not clear-cut. Then it was unoccupied for a number of years. Between being unoccupied (which made the land a sort of “free for all”) and the ecosystem destruction that comes with logging, most of the wild ginseng was here was wiped out.
Still, some pockets survived. Microhabitats that provided the perfect environment for ginseng persisted because they existed in spots too difficult to reach for loggers.
The ethical diggers who frequented these hills protected patches they found by pulling off the leaves of plants they didn’t dig. They made a point to not dig all they found in a habitat. They did this so they could come back year after year to harvest without taking too large a toll on the population.
It helped that this all occurred and then we came along to occupy the land before the frenzy caused by the popular television shows romanticizing the pillage of American ginseng.
The Garden Habitat
In the area I’m using for the public garden there was no ginseng left and very few of the companions because of the logging that happened long ago. Now the trees have grown back and although the transition from pioneer cedars to mixed hardwood is still underway, the area is once again suitable for plants that enjoy the deep shade, like ginseng, goldenseal, ferns, bloodroot and cohoshes.
I’ve made trails, planted “virtually wild” ginseng, transplanted companion plants, and labeled or marked everything (this will be ongoing). Many thanks to my friend Layne Sleeth and her husband Brian for the help with labor and donation of maidenhair ferns!
Unique and Destination-worthy
I don’t know if there’s anything else like it in the country. If so, it hasn’t shown up in my internet searches to find one. If you know of any public ginseng gardens in natural habitats, please let me know so I can link to it here. We can create a “ginseng trail” for ginseng lovers like the wine trails from cellar to cellar enjoyed by wine lovers. It would be interesting to travel from habitat to habitat in other areas to note the differences between them all.
Where is it?
CALL OR EMAIL AHEAD use the contact information (click here or see menu) to get in touch and I’ll mail the address and directions.
There is NO CELLPHONE SIGNAL in this area, so make sure to call before you leave Kingston or Huntsville to make sure I’m here if you haven’t emailed ahead of time to set an appointment. You will need a truck or car without low profile tires. If it has rained a lot recently, the bridges could be flooded. See below about “About the Road to get Here” for details about the drive here.
What are the Open Hours and Days?
For now, it is by appointment only. If the response to this project is great, I’ll set regular hours and days. I’ll always make the best effort I can to accommodate visitors, especially those who are travelling from a distance and are on tight schedules. CALL OR EMAIL AHEAD use the contact information (click here or see menu) to get in touch and I’ll mail the address and directions.
How Much does it Cost?
Free. I will have a donation can handy for those who are willing and able to support the garden. Anyone who donates $50 or more will get to pick one of my drawings to take home and have their names added to the “Friends of Wild Ozark” sign that will hang on the Nature Boutique.
$20/car for the optional escorted “Herb Drive” (see below)
About the Road to get Here
- A long dirt road– Wild Ozark is in a very remote location. It is six miles down a dirt road. There are 6 low-water bridges to cross, so if it rains more than an inch or two, the road could become impassable.
- Lots of photo opportunity– beautiful scenery to see along the roadside. You will see beautiful fields, pastures, old barns, old homesteads, forests, and possibly wildlife. You’ll definitely see a lot of beauty and tremendous biodiversity in plants.
- Herb Drive – For $20/car you can take an “Herb Drive”- there are lots of plants and herbs of interest down this road. I will conduct a driving herb walk by meeting you at the front end of the road and escorting you back here with lots of stops along the way to get out and see plants like black cohosh, blue cohosh, green dragon, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild hydrangea, giant solomon’s seal, trout lilies, etc. Here’s a post I have about the plants and sights I often see and photograph on the way here.
- There are no nearby hotels, and the nearest rental cabins are about an hour away or more. Your best bet for hotels would be Rogers, Springdale, or Fayetteville. The cabin rentals at Azalea Falls are gorgeous.
- Canoe, hike, and stay at Cedarcrest lodge in Ponca. There are other cabins in the Ponca area, too. Just do a Google search for “lodge in Ponca, Arkansas”. It’s about an hour and a half away. You’ll find almost everywhere is about an hour or two away.
The Nearest Town is Kingston, AR
In the town of Kingston there are places to eat and other things to see. Kingston is only 12 miles away, but it takes about 40 minutes to get there from here if you drive slow on the dirt road. Driving fast gets you there faster, but increases the odds of punctured tires and developing new rattles in your vehicle 🙂
- The town square is tiny but teeming with antiques.
- You’ll want to visit The Place on the Square. Make sure to go all the way to the back to see The Artroom Gallery, too.
- And don’t miss Grandpa’s Antique store.
- Look through the window if the bank isn’t open and you’ll see the old safe on display.
- It’s okay to be amused at our micro-library, but don’t diss it. It’s come a long ways since the first one!
- Dining options include The Valley Cafe, The Kingston Station, and Sugar Boogers which is a little farther north on Hwy. 21 near the junction of 412.
Visit the Wild Ozark Nature Boutique
The Nature Boutique is where you’ll be able to find ginseng and other plants for sale, nature arts & crafts, books, and hanging dried herbs & herbal remedies. It’s just an old storage container I’m converting to my shop. Right now everything is “under construction”, but there will be ginseng in the woods to see and plants to buy if you want them. Here’s a little schematic of the plan:
Where else can you see ginseng?
You also can see American ginseng growing at the Compton Gardens in Bentonville, AR. Wild Ozark received a grant from United Plant Savers to install a sanctuary garden there. It’s still immature and will be for a few more years, but the little recreated habitat will fill out over the years. Each spring, we’ll bring new plants to replace the ones that don’t survive the squirrels or whatever other hazards might befall the plants in a tended garden.
There might also still be one specimen plant at the Ozark Folk Center’s Herb Garden in Mountainview, AR. It’s been many years since I’ve visited there, though, so can’t say for sure.
What’s the Difference between the Wild Ozark Ginseng Garden and those others?
The garden here is a natural setting, it’s not a park in an urban environment just growing a few ginseng plants. Wild Ozark’s Ginseng Garden is a true habitat and demonstration of the ecosystem that supports wild American ginseng.
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About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods
I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.
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