13 Questions About Ginseng

Caring For, Finding, Growing, Digging and Selling Ginseng – These are Wild Ozark’s most often asked questions about ginseng. I’m always learning more about this fascinating plant, so if you have opposing information please post in the comments. If you have other questions, post those too!

Frequently Asked Questions About Ginseng

1. Why can’t I find ginseng?

Most often the answer turns out to be that the person was looking in the wrong kinds of places. Once the right habitat was discovered, then the problem is that the plant is just very hard to spot.

Sometimes, even if the habitat is correct, the problem is that there just isn’t any or very many ginseng plants growing there. It is often completely harvested by poachers or overharvested by previous land-owners or diggers.

At least when the right habitat is found, you can always plant some and start a new patch.

  • For a more in depth response to this question, click here.

2. Can I dig in one state and sell in another?

At least in Arkansas, not without a dealer’s license. Here’s a quote from the Arkansas State Plant Board ginseng regulations:

1. Any person, business, or corporation who buys wild or artificially propagated American Ginseng for sale across state lines shall be termed a dealer by intent of Act 774 of 1985, and shall obtain a Ginseng Dealer License and a Certificate of Legal Taking from the Arkansas State Plant Board.

3. When should you plant ginseng?

In late fall, before the ground begins to freeze. Out here (northwest Arkansas) the ground never freezes solid long, so I’d also plant during winter on days that aren’t too cold. Usually, though, I like to have all the seeds planted by end of October.

4. Where do I sell my ginseng?

Check around September on the windows of stores in the small towns of your area. Buyers will often post notices to say when they’ll be coming to town. You can also check the classifieds of your electric coop magazine (if you get those out there). Fur buyers will often buy ginseng or know of ginseng buyers in the area. I’ve seen notices posted in the classified section of our local newspaper before, too.

Wild Ozark runs a page each year for diggers and sellers to post information for each other in the comments. You might be able to find a buyer by posting a comment of your own. Here’s this year’s page: 2017 Ginseng Prices Page

5. Finding ginseng

You can find ginseng in deep forests on north, west, or east facing slopes. It helps a lot to know the companion plants that grow in the same areas ginseng grows: black cohosh, bloodroot, doll’s eyes, maidenhair fern, Christmas fern, pawpaw, wild ginger. These plants are easier to spot than the ginseng itself. If you’re trying to find a suitable site for growing your own, it’s good to plant in places these plants grow if the site has sufficient shade.

6. Ginseng seed sources, and how long does it take to ginseng to grow from seed

To buy seed, I suggest you get it from as local a source as possible. We get ours from Ozark Mountain Ginseng in Thayer, MO. We’re not in the same state, but we are both located in the Ozarks, at least. His seedstock aren’t originally from the Ozarks, either, but the plants that grow from them look just like the ones that grow wild here.

Aside from that, seeds and plants produced locally are adapted to your local conditions and will more easily thrive.

The topic of seed sourcing is one of the most debated questions about ginseng. Some believe a ginseng is a ginseng is a ginseng and that there is no difference between any of them. I believe there are distince local genotypes.

I’ve heard that Wisconsin seeds do just fine here in the Ozarks, but I am concerned about genetic pollution and try to minimize the difference between the cultivars with my introduced seeds. That’s why I try to get a genotype of ginseng that is at least similar to the wild type we have here in the Ozarks. I believe Ozark Since it’s illegal to buy/sell/collect/trade wild ginseng seeds, this is the best I can do.

How Long from Seed to Plant?

Ginseng produces a berry in summer. In the berry there are two seeds. When the berry falls to the ground it takes a full year of sitting there before it sprouts the second spring after falling. When you buy seeds they’ll be stratified (usually). This means the seed has already waited the first year (usually outside buried in a bed or bucket of sand) and will be ready to sprout the spring after you plant it.

7. Ginseng companion trees

The trees that ginseng grows best under around here is a mix of the following: oak, hickory, maple, pawpaw, dogwood, redbud, beech and poplar.

8. What happens when ginseng gets too much sunlight?

Too much sun will bleach out the leaves making them turn whitish. Eventually the plant will die in these conditions but if the problem is confined to a small area, you can put up some shade cloth until the tree canopy closes in. If this is a problem in a large area, then the ground is probably too dry there and the site is not suitable for ginseng to begin with.

9. How to tell the difference between poison oak/ivy/Virginia creeper and ginseng?

To the uninitiated, ginseng looks a lot like a few other plants. It’s most often confused with poison oak/ivy during first year growth because at that time ginseng only has 3 leaves. To tell the difference between ginseng and Virginia creeper, look at the leaves. Ginseng always has 2 tiny leaves and 3 larger ones (after the first year). All of Virginia creeper’s leaves are the same size.

Phrased a little differently, this is one of THE most often asked questions about ginseng: “Is this ginseng?”

People send me photos all the time to ask me that, and I don’t mind helping out when I can. 99% of the time, the photo is of one of the common look-alikes and not ginseng. Every once in a long while, I’ll actually get a photo of the real thing and it’s exciting to be able to confirm that for the seeker.

Check out my book about the most common look alikes. The cover is a quick-reference id key to plants often confused with ginseng.

10. When does ginseng come up in spring?

It comes up here in northwest Arkansas in mid-April. Some years it will come up later, like it did this year (2017). It was May before they unfurled because the weather in spring was cold later and very wet.

Sometimes a plant skips a year and will remain dormant until the following spring. Older plants sometimes stay dormant for more than a year or two at a time.

11. Does drought kill ginseng?

If the summers are too dry, even if it’s growing in deep shade, sometimes ginseng will die back and go dormant until the following year when conditions improve.

12. Does ginseng still grow wild?

Yes, although many diggers have carried seeds in their pockets and planted while digging, so it’s impossible to know which is true wild and which is virtually wild. This is most likely the case everywhere ginseng is native.

That leads to another of the frequent questions about ginseng: What is the difference between wild and wild-simulated? It’s only how the seed was placed. If a person put the seed on the ground (or in it), then it’s wild-simulated. If nature caused the seed to make contact with the ground, then it’s wild.

But then what about the offspring of wild-simulated that fall naturally? Well, it gets a lot trickier then, doesn’t it? I’d still call that wild-simulated, since it came from a human-seeded plant. In all other respects, though, it’s wild and will sell as a wild root (as will the other wild-simulated plants that were human-seeded).

13. Does breaking the tops off of ginseng hurt it? Will it come back next year?

Short answer: Not too much, and Maybe.

Although I’m sure having the tops broken off every year may not be good for the ginseng, if you do it late in the season after the berries have matured, it has some benefits. The main reason people do this is to “hide” the root from diggers. It would be better that the plant had the extra time with leaves to help restore energy to the root, but if poachers are an issue, it’s better for the plant than being harvested.

Sometimes deer eat the tops off of ginseng , and sometimes I harvest only the leaves. But I’ve noticed that when a plant is browsed or harvested of its leaves, it has a tendency to go dormant the following year. Then it comes back the next one. I try to not harvest leaves from the same plant two years in a row just so the plant has time to fully recuperate. But if there are many poachers in the woods any given year, I would rather top them all than lose them all.

Photo to accompany my article "Questions About Ginseng". Poster available from the Wild Ozark shop at RedBubble.
Poster and other options available from RedBubble.

Have questions about ginseng? Leave a comment and if I don’t know the answer I’ll try to find an answer.



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Driveway Flowers in September

It’s been bone dry lately. This morning I brought my camera with me so I could take pictures of the driveway flowers.

Ordinarily this would have been an “exercise walk” and I wouldn’t have brought the camera because that would have just caused me to stop and take pictures. Which would have defeated the purpose of the exercise, which is to get the heart rate up and sustained up for a little while.

However, I’m still not up to my old self after the tick fever episode, so exercise isn’t “exercise” in the same sense of the word yet. Ha. So I brought the camera and called all the stooping and squatting “exercise”.

Heading out to take pictures of the driveway flowers and get a little exercise.
Dogs waiting for me to catch up.

It’s been so dry. We hadn’t gotten any rain for weeks and the trees are already dropping their leaves. Later in the afternoon, though, we did get a really nice shower.

The creek isn't flowing anymore and leaves are filling up the small pools.
The creek isn’t flowing anymore and leaves are filling up the small pools.

The water goes underground in the creek once it gets this dry. It leaves only a few small pools here and there. I have to check regularly to make sure the horses still have their usual water hole, but so far it’s never dried up in certain spots on their portion of the creek.

When the water is low, it’s easier to find interesting rocks. This one has an inclusion that looks like part of a plant. Or something else. I’m not sure what it is, but it looks like a fossil of some sort.

Fossil in the rock.
Fossil in the rock.

In spite of the drought, some of the driveway flowers are still doing well.

An evening primrose flower.
An evening primrose flower.
Evening primrose blooming in the morning.
Evening primrose blooming in the morning.
Goldenrods never seem bothered by the droughts.
Goldenrods never seem bothered by the droughts.

Many people mistakenly think it’s the goldenrod causing their allergies. In reality, it’s the ragweed which blooms during the same time frame. I didn’t take any pics of the ragweed. It really messes with my sinuses and I didn’t want to get any closer to them than I had to.

This one is called camphorweed, but it doesn’t smell like camphor to me. It plain stinks. It ought to be called stink weed instead. The latin binomial gives a good clue to its nature:  Pluchea foetida.

Camphor weed almost gone to seed.
Camphor weed almost gone to seed.

Down in Louisiana, when someone speaks of boneset, it’s usually Eupatorium perfoliatum. Up here in the Ozarks it’s usually a different boneset. This one is Eupatorium serotinum, or late boneset.

This is the only boneset I've ever found in the Ozarks.
This is the only boneset I’ve ever found in the Ozarks.

I know that E. perfoliatum is an herb once used to treat “breakbone” fever, or dengue fever. I’m not sure if our local variety has the same properties.

Once summer begins morphing into fall, the Lobelia inflata seed pods swell and ripen. I collected enough seeds of this plant last year that I didn’t need to gather more this year. It’s a valuable part of antispasmodic formulas I craft and really works quickly for muscle pain.

Lobelia inflata with swollen seedpods.
Lobelia inflata with swollen seed pods.

I wrote an article on this often overlooked plant for the North American Native Plant Society. It was included in the August 2017 issue of their members-only newsletter magazine called Blazing Star. I’m still waiting for my copy to arrive in the mail. I’m excited about this article because it also includes my drawing of lobelia and this issue is the very first color print version.

A prettier kind of lobelia that grows here is the Lobelia siphilitica, or Great Blue Lobelia. This one would look nice in wildflower gardens, but they don’t do so well in drought conditions. The ones growing near the creek still look good, but these are beginning to suffer.

Droopy great blue lobelia.
Droopy great blue lobelia.

The asters always look pretty no matter how dry it gets.

Asters don't seem to mind the drought.
Asters don’t seem to mind the drought.
An asp on the asters.
An asp on the asters.

I found an interesting new to me flower on my walk this morning.

Cuphea viscosissima has purple flowers with sticky calyxes.
Cuphea viscosissima has purple flowers with sticky calyxes.
A small frail plant with purple flowers.
A small frail plant with purple flowers.
The little hairs have a sticky sap globule on the ends.
The little hairs have a sticky sap globule on the ends.

I’ve never noticed this plant here before and I’m not sure if that’s because it was never here, or because I just never noticed it. Of all the driveway flowers I normally pay attention to, this is one of the smaller ones I’ve ever noticed.

It’s only about a foot tall, and fairly frail and the flowers are small. But the entire top half of it has little sticky hairs all over it. The seeds of this plant contains an oil that is being researched for biofuel and for use in cosmetics and food.

I couldn’t find much about it on the internet, but it’s a member of the Loosestrife family. The common name is Tarweed, or Blue waxweed. It’s one I want to learn more about.

Well, that was the end of my driveway walk. After taking that last photo I hiked my way back up the hill and didn’t stop again until I reached the house.



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Orange Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

In keeping with the “spotted” theme of my last post, here’s an orange spotted jewelweed flower. I’m always trying to get the perfect photo of this flower.

A dream set-up would be when the sun is shining just *so* on it, to give the illusion of stained glass. There would be some nice glistening drops of water at least in the frame somewhere.

In the meantime, I snap a pic when I see a pretty one.

Orange spotted jewelweed
Orange spotted jewelweed

Later on as the plants begin to make seeds, I’ll try to collect some. Today I collected common milkweed seeds and some Echinacea purpurea. I’ll get these packaged up in some pretty way to sell at the farmer’s market soon.

Seeds on the list to be collected:

  • Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
  • Great Blue Lobelia (L. siphilitica)
  • Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)
  • Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana)

Perhaps next year I’ll be able to add our wild-simulated American ginseng to the list. This year all of the seeds I collected went back to replanting the hillsides.



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Cardinal Flower Reflections
Reflections

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) at the creek’s edge in late August. It’s one of the showiest Lobelia species that grows in the Arkansas Ozarks.



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Nature Drawing in Progress: American ginseng in October

Two years ago I made a nature drawing of American ginseng in October, with yellowing leaves against the dark backdrop of the Wild Ozark forest.

Repeating the Same Nature Drawing

Since that time I’ve learned a little more about certain techniques I can use with my pencils, specifically blending, and so I wanted to re-draw the picture so I can enter it into a contest.

Usually I like to scan each step as I go along with a drawing, but for this one I forgot. This one picks up at the blending of the background stage.

Background First

You can see in the image that most of the drawing hasn’t been blended, only the very bottom part.

Although I have some color on the leaves and plant itself, I have barely begun on that part of it and have a lot more color layers to add before blending for that part begins.

Nature Drawing by Madison Woods. Background stage: Beginning the blending.
Background stage: Beginning the blending.

 

 

 

Needs More Detail

Once I finished blending the ground background, I decided I wanted to add some more form to the surroundings. So I added a christmas fern, one of ginseng’s habitat companions. Now it balances out the empty woods surrounding the main object.

Looking at it from Different Perspectives

When I scan each step, I’m doing more than just recording a step in the process.

When I look at the picture in another format, like on the computer or the small screen of my phone, I can see things I didn’t see in the original.

The first image I posted showed me that the background was too empty.

The next one showed me where I have spaces that are too light or need *something*.

"Ginseng in October", a nature drawing in progress. Ground floor background blended.
Ground floor background blended.

At the base of the fern and on the lower levels of the background above the floor, it needs to be darker and I’d like some vague suggestions of more fern to the left.

Here it is again, with the background blended, after I added darker lower levels and a bent fern frond to the left.

Background finished. "Ginseng in October" nature drawing in progress.
Background finished. “Ginseng in October” nature drawing in progress.

Foreground Next

The next step will be the dried leaves at the bottom. Those two dead leaves are the foreground. Once I get those done, I’ll start working on the ginseng plant.

Halfway There

Here it is again with the dead leaves done, and the background finished. I’ve just begun working on the ginseng now.

Ginseng in October, in progress

I really like drawing autumn and winter leaves. Here’s the dead leaves, closer:

Zoomed in on the dead leaves.

Signing off for today. So far, this has been several days of work. Today was the first day I spent the entire day on it, though.

Tomorrow I should be able to get this wrapped up and I’ll post the finished scan …

And here’s the finished drawing:

Ginseng in October by Madison Woods. Prints available.

The first drawing

I didn’t know about blending at all yet when I drew this first one. But that really didn’t matter at the time to me, because I drew it in situ, and it was only meant to be a journal entry. It was late in the afternoon and dark in the woods, and finding the plant to begin with was unexpected.

ginseng in october
Ginseng in October, the nature journal entry

I’m glad I have it now to go by, since I didn’t get any photos of the plant that year. Now I can’t find the same plant at all.

The Blending Process

The blending takes a long time. It’s tedious and it makes my arm and eyes hurt if I don’t take plenty breaks. So just finishing the background alone could take several days of steady work at blending.

I’m not sure if there’s an easier way to do this step or not. I saw on one tutorial video that the artist used mineral spirits. Well, I tried that and it didn’t blend very well at all. Perhaps we used different brands of pencils.

The Tools

I use Prismacolor. The only set I have right now is the Premier Soft Core and a colorless blending pencil. I need a set of the VeriThin, but that will have to wait until after the taxes get paid for this year.

The paper I’m using is a water-color paper for Epson printers. It comes in very large sheets that I have to cut down to size. Our printer does fine work for smaller art prints, like those I use on my note cards. And this is archival quality acid free paper. However, for larger than 5 x 7 prints, and especially those I sell as “art”,  I use Scott’s Frame and Art (Scott Imaging)  in Fayetteville.

Stay Tuned

I’ll post updates to the work as I make progress. Let me know if you have any tips!

ETA is the end of the week because there’s a deadline involved for the contest I want to enter.

If you’d like a print, stop in and see me at the Downtown Rogers Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, now open year-round!

Here’s their FB page and ours:



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

How to Find Ginseng? First look for the right habitat.

Want to know how to find ginseng? Look for the right habitat. The easiest way to do that is to look for companion plants.


September 20 2017 – It’s full-swing harvest season now, and plenty of you are out in the woods looking for ginseng.

I hope you’re either on your own property or have permission from the landowner, wherever you are.

In some of the locations where ginseng is native, the berries are red and this makes spotting the plant from a distance a little easier. The plants begin to take on a yellowish color, too, which is another visual aid.

However, in other locations, plants may already be past the fruiting stage with only a red berry clinging here and there. Although the plants may be yellowing, they may already have dropped some leaves or bugs have eaten some of them, making it harder to know if the plant you see is actually ginseng.

Be good stewards

A short version summarizing my idea of sustainable harvest plan is farther down on this page.

Many people are asking where exactly can they find or go to dig ginseng.  If you’re asking that question, you probably won’t like the answer.

Please Note

Legal season for digging for ginseng is Sept. 1 through Dec. 1. If you have the proper habitat, I encourage you to plant wild-simulated ginseng using seeds from as local as possible a source. We usually plant our seeds in fall before it gets too cold.

How to Find Ginseng?

First look for the right habitat. Look for the kinds of places it likes to grow.

Where does ginseng grow?

Ginseng grows in moist deciduous forests of eastern North America, but only in locations that provide the perfect combination of deep shade, moist loamy soil, and the right mix of trees. It loves the north-facing slopes, but also grows on east, west, and rarely on south-facing slopes. Most often it likes the lower third of a slope, generally not the mountain tops. Here’s a map from the USDA (the map doesn’t seem to be working at the moment, but the link is correct) that shows where it grows in the United States.

If you want to know if your state allows the harvest of ginseng, you can check to see if it’s on the map here. If not, then there are no regulations, which often means there is no legal way to do it. You’d have to contact the Plant Board or your local USDA office to ask more questions.

Where EXACTLY can I find ginseng?

You probably won’t like the answer. No one is going to tell you where you can go to find a specific patch of ginseng. The reason why is because if someone knows the plant well enough to tell you where it is, they’ll also know it’s endangered and easily exterminated from a single site. That person usually is either digging and maintaining the patch for themselves, or is protecting/stewarding the site so it can continue to thrive.

If you don’t have property of your own with suitable habitat, or know someone else with the proper conditions, you probably won’t have anywhere to dig or grow. Some states might allow digging on public lands, but many don’t. Arkansas does not.

So if you are someone who just became interested in digging some ‘sang to make some money from the roots, you’re most likely out of luck.

However, if:

  • you have land (your own or a friend’s) & you want to know if ginseng is present or could be
  • you’re looking to buy property and want to know if it contains good habitat
  • you’re working with others to build a sanctuary

Then the rest of this post might be very helpful to you.

Keep an eye out for my 2017 Ginseng Prices page if you want to stay abreast of current digger/dealer prices this year. You can read last year’s price watch here.

Start Broad – Look for the Ginseng Indicator Plants

If you want to know how to find ginseng, first learn to find proper habitat.

Increase your odds

Check the USDA map to see if ginseng grows, or has ever grown, in the area of interest. For example, if you live in Arizona, it is highly unlikely that you will ever successfully grow this plant. If you want to try, then you’ll have to recreate the kind of habitat that supports it.

Shade and moisture

First look for mature trees. The following are present in the areas I’ve found ginseng:

  • maple
  • redbud
  • pawpaw
  • oak
  • hickory
  • poplar
  • dogwood
  • cedar

It needs to NOT be all oak/hickory/cedar/pine. Ginseng will grow on any slope. North-facing is best, but it’ll grow facing any direction if the shade and moisture are right. It is most often right on north-facing slopes. There are sometimes “folds” on south-facing slopes that create mini-habitats on the north-facing inside of the fold.

Found the right forest?

Once you have the right kind of trees and good moisture that comes from the right shade, then look for companion plants.

Companion plants

It’s good to know the companions because ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) can be a difficult plant to spot. If you’re out looking for ginseng, you’ll know to look harder if you’ve already spotted the companions. The plant seems to show itself to some but not to others. 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. I’m that way when it comes to hunting morel mushrooms. I cannot find them, even if I look exactly in the right kinds of spots. According to people who find them, morels have their own kinds of companion plants (and trees). 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 or Indicator Plants

In one of my other posts about ginseng, I talked about choosing the best site to plant. Those tips can also help you find ginseng if you’re hunting it. And here’s a post that might help explain why you’re not finding it. Here’s another page that shows the ginseng plant as a seedling, two-prong, three- and four-prong, if you’d like to see how it looks as it gets more mature.

♥ Ginseng indicator plants, also called companion plants, are those plants, shrubs and trees that like to grow in the same sort of environment as ginseng. They keep the same company because they require the same habitat.

Wild Ozark Resources

  • Here’s a post with photos to answer the question “How does ginseng look in fall?”.
  • Here’s a post where you can see how ginseng looks from spring through late fall on my page Ginseng Through the Seasons.
  • If you like art, you might enjoy my sketch of “Ginseng in May”.
  • For a general post on what a ginseng plant looks like, go here.
  • If you have questions about ginseng that aren’t answered in this post, try my page on Questions About Ginseng.
  • And if you were confounded by look-alikes all season last year and want a little help, check out my latest book “Ginseng Look-Alikes”.

Finding the first ginseng plant

When I first go out to the woods, even in a place I know has ginseng, I have a difficult time spotting the first ginseng plant. They have a way of growing that makes them hard to see, but once you’ve found the first 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.

image of how to find ginseng
See how the ginseng plant has a horizontal form?

 

If you’re scouting woods for likely places to either plant or find it, here are a few of the companion plants you’ll want to keep an eye out for. They’re much easier to find than ginseng itself. Look for goldenseal, black cohosh, pawpaw trees, American spikenard, virginia snakeroot, bloodroot, blue cohosh and wild ginger.

Poster available from Shop Wild Ozark. https://shop.wildozark.com/shop/posters-of-ozark-plants/
Poster available from Wild Ozark. Email for prices/sizes. [email protected]

Photos of the companions

Here’s some of the ones I see most often around here in the Ozarks:


Want More Ginseng or Companion Plant Pictures?

link to ginseng category

There’s lots of photos on this blog if you’d like to just browse around a bit. Click on the “Ginseng Blog Posts” icon to get all of the posts that mention ginseng.


 

A Note about Poison Ivy

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.

Poison ivy recently moved in and choked out a good ginseng habitat on our property. 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. And that’s what allowed the poison ivy to grow so densely there. It has taken nearly five years for the forest to recover to a point where the shade has returned to proper density.

Natural Setbacks

The ginseng suffered and much of it died or went dormant because lost trees opened a gap to direct sunlight for too many hours per day. Most of the ginseng companion plants can tolerate more sunlight than ginseng.

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. With a little help from the companions, you’ll be able to find suitable habitat for one of our greatest natural treasures, wild American Ginseng. The knowledge you gain will help you become a better conservationist if you choose to grow your own “virtually wild” ginseng rather than dig the wild.

Practice Ethical Hunting and Harvesting, and Consider Growing Your Own

♥ Ginseng has a legal harvest season. Ethical practices will help the plant to continue in the wild.

 

Please follow the laws of your state regarding how and when to harvest. For the state of Arkansas, those rules are here (it’s a PDF file). I also go over specific practices to help the plant survive in my book Sustainable Ginseng. You might wonder why someone who conserves the wild ginseng wants to hunt it.

Except when our personal stash is low, when I find wild ginseng (in season), I don’t dig it. I record where I found it and observe the habitat, photograph the plants and environment.

Why I study

I use the information I gather to become more successful at growing it and I share what I’ve learned with my blog and book readers. From the plants I’ve seeded on our property, I also plant the ripe berries and redistribute them to places I want to establish new colonies. (Never gather all of the seeds of a plant, and never dig without planting the seeds.)

To know where to plant, it helps to know the preferred habitat of ginseng. My hope is that you’ll become interested in growing wild-simulated ginseng, and for that you’ll need to know the kinds of places ginseng likes to grow.

♥ Wild-simulated, or virtually wild ginseng, is simply the practice of planting seeds and allowing them to grow naturally.

A Summary of Sustainable Practice for Wild-Simulated

No tilling, no fertilizing, no weeding (except perhaps in the beginning to clear out underbrush). Then in 7-10 years, begin a sustainable plan for harvesting.

That plan would include taking no more than 50% of the seed-bearing plants from each colony, and only a small portion of the oldest plants. Always replant the seeds from those plants in the original area.

This harvest plan would also be what I consider to be a good way to “steward” the wild if you intend to harvest it when you find it.



Other Ginseng Posts You Might Like

ginseng with red berries

If you have questions, please leave a comment or use the Contact link in the menu to get in touch. I’m always happy to help if I can.

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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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Wild Ginseng in August at Wild Ozark

A few days ago I took a walk out to the deep woods to see how the wild ginseng and habitat companions were doing.

The wild plants are in pretty hard to reach areas and I don’t get out there very often. When we plant seeds, we try to keep enough distance between the wild-simulated and the wild to avoid genetic pollution.


For more information on genetic pollution and diminishing variability in wild ginseng, here’s a couple of references:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898772/ (this is about Russian ginseng, but the same principles most likely apply to American)
  • http://wildginsengconservation.com/GeneticPollution.html (You’ll have to copy/paste that link – can’t make a live link  because it’s not a secure site, and mine is)

The last time I took a look at this particular habitat area, it was in May, I believe. Ordinarily I can drive the 4-wheeler closer to the departure point. Not so on this trip today.

The trail ahead on my quest to find wild ginseng in august. Definitely not good ginseng habitat right here.
The trail ahead. Definitely not good ginseng habitat right here.

The trail had become overgrown with brambles. My quest to find wild ginseng in August was going to take a little longer than I expected.

I used a machete and hacked away for a while.

Bloody and sore after a few minutes, with still no progress, I called it quits and took off on foot uphill, toward the right. As soon as I got away from the trail, and started heading uphill, the going was a lot easier. No more brambles, at least.

I went out at late afternoon, so the light was already dim in the deep woods. Although I went looking for ginseng, I am always on the watch for other interesting plants.

Here’s one that caught my eye. There were only a few of them, all confined to one small area, much in the same way wild ginseng grows in small confined areas.

The photo isn’t very good because the light was very low right here. And I’m not good enough at using my camera to know how to compensate correctly for that, yet. Nothing I tried yielded a good focus.

Triphora trianthophora orchid, whole above ground plant.
Triphora trianthophora orchid, whole above ground plant.
T trianthophora, a new find for me. It's also called Three Birds Orchid and is endangered in many states but not in the Ozarks, or Arkansas. Still, I only saw a few.
T trianthophora, a new find for me. It’s also called Three Birds Orchid and is endangered in many states but not in the Ozarks, or Arkansas. Still, I only saw a few.

The place where I found the orchids looked like it should have been a good place for ginseng, too, but there were none that I could see.

I did see some ginseng companion plants, though. Here’s Doll’s Eyes:

Actaea pachypoda, also called Doll's Eyes or White Baneberry. This is one of the most reliable ginseng habitat indicators here in the Ozarks.
Actaea pachypoda, also called Doll’s Eyes or White Baneberry. This is one of the most reliable ginseng habitat indicators here in the Ozarks.

There was also maidenhair fern, blue cohosh, christmas ferns, goldenseal, and bloodroot present. I didn’t take many photos because daylight was fading fast and I still hadn’t found the ginseng.

However, a shaft of sunlight filtered between the tree canopies to fall on the nettles, and it made a beautiful photo so I had to stop for that:

Wood nettles in flower. These sting. I know this from experience.
Wood nettles in flower. These sting. I know this from experience.

Wood nettles are a great indicator of rich, moist, loamy soil – perfection for American ginseng. But there was still no ginseng in sight. I walked eastward a little longer, then downhill toward a spot I was fairly sure I could find some plants.

One of the wild ginseng plants with only green berries.
One of the wild ginseng plants with only green berries.
Mature 3-prong American ginseng with ripe berries.
Mature 3-prong American ginseng with ripe berries.

So I found a few plants and took a few pictures, and then it was time to get back to the trail before the sun went down much more and made it too difficult to find my way back!



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Just a few Photos of Butterflies, Kings River, and a Ginseng

Not enough time to make a decent post lately, so figured I’d at least put up a few of the photos I’ve taken in the past few days of August. Click on them to make them larger.



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Our Favorite Recipe for using Burnt Kettle’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup

Have you found a wonderfully delicious way to use our syrup? If so, post your recipe in the comments and share it with the world! Need to order a bottle? There’s a link to it in our online shop at the bottom of this page.

Burnt Kettle logo for shagbark hickory syrupRight now, as of 10-19-17, we’re still in preliminary production, awaiting certification from the state, but all orders will be filled as soon as the paperwork is finished! (You can request a refund at any time.)

Here’s our favorite way to use it.

Cornbread and Ice Cream

Bake a pan of fresh cornbread. I make mine from scratch using a recipe my mawmaw gave me. She didn’t have it written down, so I just had to watch and I wrote down what she did.

Let me know if you need a recipe and I’ll share mine.

You can use whatever kind of cornbread you like. My favorite is a little on the sweet side and large crumbed.

Recipe ingredients for cornbread and ice cream with shagbark hickory syrup.
The delicious parts.

Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of a buttered slice of that cornbread.

Drizzle on the Shagbark Hickory Syrup

Top with chopped pecans (pan roast these in butter for extra yummy)

Voila! The most delicious thing we’ve ever tasted. We only buy very small portions of ice cream so we don’t eat it too often.

Here's a recipe one way to use Wild Ozark's shagbark hickory syrup.
The delicious whole.

Submit your ideas, too!

Need your own bottle?

 



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods

Tall Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana)

Thimbleweed is a graceful, interesting native Ozark plant that grows along forest edges (also native to many other areas of the eastern United States). It is most often found in the dappled shade of liminal spaces between forest and clearing.

Before sending up flower stalks, the plant is only about a foot tall.
Flowers of Thimbleweed, native to the Ozarks

The long slender flower stalks add an extra foot or two in total height. The stalks sway in the breezes, giving it one of its other common names, “windflower”.

Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana)

During the heat of July while out scouting for rocks – yes, rocks. I scout for plants, habitats AND rocks regularly.  Anyway, I spied the bristly elongated cones of Thimbleweed. Of course I had to zip back up to the house because I generally don’t carry along the camera while dealing with rocks.

Thimbleweed flower cones
Once the petals fall, the cone resembles a thimble, which is how the plant gets its common name.

Last year in late January I noticed the seed fluff getting ready to take flight. Of course I gathered some of the seedheads. In the course of my gathering, many were naturally released onto the breeze to reseed elsewhere, so no danger of over harvesting seeds from this one.

Thimbleweed gone to Seed
Thimbleweed gone to seed

Thimbleweed is another one of my favorite plants (I have quite a few “favorites”, haha) of the Ozarks. I didn’t get the seeds I’d gathered sown this spring but I’ll try again next year. If successful, I’ll have some of these graceful beauties to offer at the market booth and nursery.

Here’s a few links to pages with more information about Thimbleweed.

It has a history of medicinal use, but I’d enjoy this plant just because of its unique appearance.

It stands out in a crowds of weedy growth and I like that about it. That’s what I’m trying to do as a writer and blogger in a sea of other writers and bloggers, so we have something in common.

It’s a plant that should be easy enough to propagate, so hopefully it will also one day grace the “Plants” category in our online store. I should be able to begin offering plants by mail in a few months.

More info

Photos

Tall Thimbleweed plant, Anemone virginiana

 

 



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.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Thank you for reading and/or participating in this Wild Ozark community! ~ Madison Woods