A decline in wild ginseng from over picking has led the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests to suspend ginseng harvesting permits for 2021.
“Every year we’ve seen fewer ginseng plants and the danger is that they’ll completely disappear from this area,” said Gary Kauffman, botanist for the National Forests in North Carolina. “We need to pause the harvest now to help ensure that these plants will be available in future years and for our grandkids and their kids.”
Commercial harvest of wild ginseng from the Appalachian Mountains has been a practice for 250 years. Declines are attributed to poaching, over harvesting, out-of-season harvest, and taking mature plants without planting the seeds for future crops. The number of plants now in the national forests is too low to be sustainably harvested.
Kauffman monitors plant levels and has worked with other organizations to reintroduce ginseng into the forest where the plant has been overharvested.
Anyone removing wild ginseng plants or its parts on national forest lands without a permit may be fined up to $5,000 or a 6-month sentence in federal prison, or both.