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American Ginseng

American Ginseng
   Photo: Donald Kirk

Features: American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a long-lived, slow-growing perennial herb found in rich, moist, mature deciduous forest. Its elongated root has a high market value and is used to make a medicinal tonic. In Asia, the root of the closely related Oriental Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.

Status: Endangered Provincially and Nationally

Range: The range of American Ginseng extends from southwestern Quebec and eastern and central Ontario, south through the northeastern and midwestern United States to Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia. In Ontario, Ginseng has been recorded at 65 sites, but recent surveys suggest that one-quarter of these sites may have disappeared.

Threats: Populations of American Ginseng have decreased significantly in Ontario over the past 150 years because of harvesting, timber extraction, and the clearing of land for agriculture and development. These threats continue at present, and it has been estimated that at least half of the populations are declining. Other potential concerns include hybridization with non-native Oriental Ginseng, which is sometimes planted in woodlands for commercial harvest, and the transmission of disease from this introduced species to American Ginseng.

Protection: A statute protecting wild American Ginseng was enacted in Ontario in 1891, but repealed as "archaic" legislation in 1960. Wild American Ginseng is listed under Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which controls international trade in this plant or its parts. American Ginseng is protected under Ontario's Endangered Species Act, 2007, which protects the species from being collected, killed or harmed. In southeastern Ontario, about 50% of wild American Ginseng populations are on public land. Municipalities are required by the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act to prohibit the development of significant habitat of endangered species.

Text Sources: White 1988; Argus et al. 1982-87

Last Modified Date: October 2008

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