RICHMOND, Va. — American ginseng is a native slow-growing, shade-loving perennial that grows wild in Virginia’s forests. The root of the American ginseng plant is valued as a medicinal herb. Due to concerns of overharvesting and natural, common challenges, harvest of the plant is monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is responsible for ensuring the sustainability of wild ginseng in the state by enforcing regulations related to the harvest and sale of the plant in the Commonwealth.
Ginseng collection is prohibited on most public lands in Virginia, including state and national parks and forests. On public lands where ginseng harvesting is allowed diggers must obtain a permit from the appropriate office or agency before harvesting any ginseng. Collecting any portion of the plant, including the berries, for personal or commercial use from federal land is strictly prohibited. Anyone caught removing ginseng from federal lands may face a fine of up to $5,000, six months in jail, or both. Violation of Virginia’s wild ginseng harvest regulations is punishable by imprisonment for up to 12 months, up to a $2,500 fine, or both.
Individuals harvesting ginseng from private property must obtain permission from the property owner prior to plants being removed. Permission should be in writing and kept with the individual harvester at the time of harvest. When harvesting wild ginseng, diggers shall comply with the following provisions:
- Wild ginseng harvest season begins on Sept. 1 and ends on Dec. 31 of each year. Wild ginseng cannot be harvested from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31,
- Wild ginseng that is younger than five years old, has fewer than four stem scars present on its rhizome or has fewer than three prongs cannot be harvested, and
- Any person who harvests wild ginseng must plant the seeds of the harvested plant at the harvest site at the time of harvest.
Ginseng harvest regulations do not apply to individuals harvesting wild ginseng from their own land. Landowners are encouraged to observe the same size and age restrictions and seed planting guidelines to help ensure the continued, long-term viability of wild ginseng when digging ginseng on their property.
Individuals shipping or transporting ginseng from Virginia in amounts of eight ounces or greater per calendar year must have the ginseng certified by VDACS. Individuals buying or accepting ginseng to sell must obtain a license from VDACS.
During the 2020 season, approximately 1,800 pounds of wild ginseng roots were harvested in Virginia, with a value of nearly $945,000. It takes between 250 and 300 roots to acquire one pound of wild ginseng.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS