Ginseng  Russ Richardson
Nov. 22, 2007 


Growing ginseng is probably one of the most lucrative land use options out  
there.  I think in Massachusetts it might actually be against the law to  grow
ginseng in the woods so I would recommend checking with the powers that be  
before I stuck any seed in the ground.  I know that earlier this fall New  York
ginseng was selling for over $1,000/pound....fresh!  Over the long  term,
woods grown American ginseng is one of the few commodities the Chinese  cannot
duplicate so the prospects for it as a forest crop look really  promising.

Ginseng can be grown on a ten to twelve year rotation at a net income of  
between $6,000 and $15,000 per acre....

So many things are changing here right now it is hard to keep up.   Invasive
species like Microstegium and garlic mustard are starting to make  natural
regeneration a thing of the past and the severely hot weather of  the past couple
of summers is starting to show in much of the sugar maple  as I notice more
and more hard maple trees with large tops just dying  spontaneously...with no
indications of health issues other than rapid  death.  Emerald ash borer has
now been found in the central part of the  state...less than 100 miles from
where I live and HWA is beating up  the hemlock in the is still
about 125 miles east of  me.  Dogwood has pretty much died out and the structure
of the forest floor  is changing rapidly as multifloral rose moves into the
opened up  understory.

However, all of those frustrating things being aired, I have to say that I  
really cannot imagine a more exciting place to be involved with forest  
management than where I am in WV.  The landowners are some of the  best people I have
ever worked with and some of the loggers work at a  professional level that I
wish the entire industry could aspire to.   Also, having been a siliviculture
and TSI nut since the day I thinned my  first care at the family farm in
Shelburne the productivity of the land  continues to amaze me.


Nov. 25, 2007 Mike Leonard


That's cool info about ginseng. Can you recommend a good book o how to
grow it and a seed source?  If Sun and I start growing it now in
Petersham maybe it could become part of our retirement fund. We could
sell it all our friends in Korea where it commands a premium price

You can produce 400 board feet/acre of hardwood in WV?! Around here we
produce only about 250 board feet/acre on the better sites with good

You use the Doyle rule in WV?! That rule's volume tables run about 20%
less than the International! The mills are already guaranteed at least a
10% overrun with the International so why use the Doyle?

If invasives are hindering your regeneration, how are you dealing with
it? I have a quick story on that. A few years ago I visited Wells
Estuarine Sanctuary in Wells, Maine and noticed a proliferation of
Japanese barberry in the understory. Well the managers there had set up
some test plots where they had fenced in areas to keep the deer away.
Since deer won't browse on barberry but will eat everything else, the
overbrowsing resulted in an almost pure understory of barberry. So
rather than trying to eliminate the barberry, keeping the deer away will
at least ensure that some native trees will regenerate. More hunting
pressure would help too! But the managers should have eliminated the
barberry when it was first noticed. The Nature Conservancy has tried
prescribed burning which has worked but unfortunately I can't do that
for my clients.

Keep up the good work Russ!


TOPIC: Questions for Joe, Russ, and Don on Forestry Curricula ginseng

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Sun, Nov 25 2007 8:47 am


Everything related to ginseng is taking off like a rocket. There is a
growing body of scientific evidence that many of the "old wives tales" that
purport health benefits from ginseng are true and there is an incredible rush
underway, worldwide, to get ginseng seed into the ground before all the proof
comes out.

At this time there is extremely promising research with proving methods for
controlling diabetes with an extract of ginseng berry juice and heart and
circulatory benefits and well as brain function from consumption of the root and
ginseng root extracts.

Ginseng roots do not start to accumulate the different constituents that are
thought to be the medicinal properties until they are five or more years
old. Commercially grown ginseng roots the size of carrots can be produced in
artificial shade using lots of chemicals, fertilizers and fungicides in three
years. The price per pound for artificially propagated ginseng has been
averaging $6-$10. Wild simulated ginseng is completely indistinguishable from
wild ginseng and is usually valued as wild... $800 to $1,000+/pound in the fall
of 2007.

For the past several years there has been repeated mention that the next
generation of Chinese are not interested in traditional healing but the opposite
seems to be happening. Virtually all of the wild and wild simulated
American ginseng harvested in the US ends up in the Orient.

You mentioned Korea...following is an excerpt from a 2005 newsletter I wrote
for WV Tree Farmers...

Korea's largest ginseng grower had nearly $300,000,000 in sales in 2004 with
over 70% of their production used in Korea. The same company announced
plans to vigorously market their ginseng to a rapidly growing Chinese middle

There are numerous options for getting information on ginseng and for New
England production you are going to be hard pressed over the short term to find
any local help or assistance. In some New England states you might find it
is not possible to legally plant American ginseng in your own woods....and
expect to harvest and sell it, especially for export.

Growing ginseng in the woods is an activity that ties in very nicely with
long term woodland management.

As a forester dedicated to long term management of private woodland, working
with ginseng has become one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.
In addition to developing a far deeper and enthusiastic appreciation for the
complexity of a healthy forest understory and forest health in general I
have enjoyed sharing my insights with my clients and other landowners.

We now have a State law in West Virginia permitting us to grow "wild
simulated" American ginseng in the woods. Generally growing ginseng in the forest
is a 7 to 12 year long process but it is an incredibly effective way to keep
people much more engaged with their forest...and as a forester it gives me a
lot more to talk about with property owners that goes beyond manufacturing
tree stumps.

Ginseng plants can live up to 100 years and recently a one hundred year-old
ginseng root that was harvested this fall in Maryland sold for over $100,000.
Ginseng harvested in the Catskills of New York to regularly sell for in
excess of $1,000/pound. They have a ginseng festival in the Catskills every
Columbus Day weekend that draws thousands of people.

For myself, in addition to growing it and learning about it I have become a
regular consumer. I often use it when I am having a hard day in the woods
and hit the 1:30 or 2:00 doldrums when fatigue starts to set in. Just a few
drops of tincture and I'm back to work for an hour and a half ... I can almost
set my watch by it... One effect of ginseng is that it perks you up like
caffeine but in a different way that I find it impossible to fully describe.

Also, once you learn how rare the habitats actually are that contain
residual native populations, your timing, season of planning and even harvest
execution could change. Ultimately, trying to maintain a healthy forest that can
grow healthy ginseng in natural conditions is going to be a tall charge. It
is possible, but the books for doing it haven't been written yet.

The social, economic, environmental and ecological sciences that come
together when you are trying to manage native medicinal plants and other nontimber
forest products is a developing science that is keeping this old forester
from getting bored with just plain old silviculture.