American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
American ginseng (Panax quinquefoliusL.) is an understory plant found in the eastern deciduous forest of the United States. Ginseng has long been valued for its medicinal qualities, particularly by Asian cultures, which have integrated American ginseng into their traditional medicinal practices as a complement to their native Asian ginseng species. In this way, ginseng shares a part of early American history, being exported to Asia in the 1700s. Ginseng harvest continues today as a tradition particularly practiced in the Appalachian region, where the sale of ginseng still supplements household incomes, and links people to the land. Ecologists began studying ginseng presumably because of its value as a wild-harvested species and its decrease in abundance after many decades of harvest. Now, however, after many years of ongoing research, ginseng has become an important model species – a sensitive indicator of the effects of contemporary global and regional environmental change for plants in the eastern deciduous forest.
Purpose of this web site
Our mission is to provide scientifically-based information to the public and policy makers that will aid in sustainable management of wild American ginseng, and result in conservation of this economically and culturally important plant. For us, management of ginseng extends beyond evaluating harvest practices to understanding and mitigating the effects of human-initiated changes, such as global warming and introduction of non-native species, on ginseng populations. Representing a suite of other similar understory species, ginseng may be the ‘canary in the coalmine’, forecasting threats to biodiversity in the eastern deciduous forest.