Grown Here at Home: Harvesting wild ginseng in Virginia requires the right paperwork

It's wild ginseng harvest season in Virginia, and it’s not something you can just go out and do. You’ve got to have the right paperwork.
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 9:37 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Ginseng has a long history in the U.S.

“There’s records of Daniel Boone harvesting and shipping it out, basically wagon loads and boat loads of ginseng to Asia,” explained Keith Tignor, endangered species coordinator for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Not only does it have a lot of cultural value, it’s also a medicinal herb.

“The largest amounts of it come from the southwest and western part of the state in the mountains. It grows very well in hardwood forests, particularly on shady hillsides,” Tignor said.

Wild ginseng is protected under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, treaty, otherwise known as CITES.

“What that does, is it protects not just ginseng, but other animals and plants that are on the verge of possibly going to extinction,” Tignor said.

Wild ginseng harvest season is from September 1 until December 31. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is responsible for ensuring the sustainability of wild ginseng by regulating the harvest and sale of it. VDACS requires ginseng dealers, those purchasing wild ginseng for re-sale, to obtain a permit from them.

Most public lands, including state and national parks and forests in Virginia don’t allow the harvest of wild ginseng, but on public land where it’s allowed, ginseng diggers are required to have a permit before harvesting. Removing ginseng from federal lands without a permit could cost you a fine of up to $5,000, six months in jail, or both. However, digging on private property doesn’t require a permit.

“Most of the diggers are going to be going back to their own lands, their family lands, or to people that they know that are giving them permission. We recommend if it’s not your own land that you get that permission in writing and you have it with you as you go out to dig that ginseng,” Tignor said.

Click here for more information on harvesting wild ginseng in the Commonwealth.

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