It’s ginseng time in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and the U.S. Forest Service is reminding visitors to national forest land that permits are required for harvesting these rare and valuable plants.
Forest Service officials estimate that up to 10,000 dried pounds are harvested annually in the WNC region. Harvesting is not allowed in Wilderness or Natural areas of Forest Service land.
A permitting system was implemented several years ago as a means of protecting these rare plants.
“Over the years, we’ve seen a decline in populations of ginseng and other forest products such as ramps,” said Gary Kauffman, a botanist with the national forests in North Carolina. “If their numbers get too low, the Forest Service may have to change the way we manage certain forest products in the future. This could include shortening the harvest season, reducing the amount of plants that can be harvested or banning the harvest altogether.”
Ginseng is a long-lived perennial whose multi-forked taproot is sold as a medicinal root primarily in East Asia.
Harvesting permits are issued from Sept. 1-30. The cost for the permit is $40 per wet pound of ginseng harvested. The minimum permit is for one wet pound and the maximum allowable collection is 3 pounds annually.
For more information on harvesting ginseng in the national forests in North Carolina, visit: www.fs.usda.gov/internet/fse_documents/stelprdb5188148.pdf.