Wild ginseng grows in most states located east of the Mississippi River. Oregon and Washington also have areas with harvestable sized ginseng plants. The Appalachian mountain region is considered prime habitat for wild ginseng, however, overharvesting in this region is making wild ginseng more difficult to locate. If you live or have access to these areas with known wild ginseng plant populations you can use the tips below to dig yourself some wild ginseng.
What Does A Wild Ginseng Plant Look Like?
Before you can find your own “wild seng” you have to know how to identify the plant. One of the best ways to learn what a wild ginseng plants looks like is to study pictures of the plant such as the one on this page.
From the picture you’ll notice the plant is green in color with a berry stem in the middle of the plant. You can also watch the ginseng video in this article to see what actual ginseng looks like in the wild and get some great tips on finding wild ginseng.
The red berries are one of the easiest ways to identify a wild plant, however, life is not meant to be easy and often times the red berry cluster will be missing. The berries are often blown off by wind, eaten by birds and animals or simply fall off. The steam from which the berries grow will usually still be with the plant even if the berries are gone and this is one sure sign you have found a wild ginseng plant.
Each plant has a single main stem coming from the ground and from the main stem there will be what is known as prongs coming out from the top of the stem. A ginseng plant usually has two to five prongs coming from the stem. Each prong will have between three to five leafs, in my experience most plants will have five leafs on each prong.
In most locations the law states a wild ginseng plant must be three prongs or more before it can be dug up for harvest. Look closely at the picture and notice the rigid or jagged edges around the leafs of the plant. These small identifying factors are the types of things you need to look for when learning how to find wild ginseng. After you’ve found a few plants and spend adequate time hunting for “seng” you’ll develop a keen eye for the plant.
Tips On Finding Wild Ginseng
Now that you have an idea of what the plant looks like you can head out into the woods to begin your quest to find wild ginseng. The first thing you’ll notice is the woods, mountains or fields you’ll be in are confusing places. You’ll realize there are so many different trees, plants and flowers that finding ginseng will seem like looking for a needle in a haystack.
The key to finding wild ginseng is to narrow down the area you’re searching by looking for the specific locations best suited for ginseng and also to find companion plants known to grow in the same types of habitat favored by ginseng.
Ginseng grows best in moist well shaded areas. In hilly terrain north facing slopes are known to be the some the best places to search for wild ginseng because the sun doesn’t effect the north slopes as much as others. I’ve found good amounts of “wild ginseng” on slopes facing in other directions but you’ll have to find well shaded areas to do so.
Mature hardwood forest with Large trees which provide a nice overhead canopy to block out sun helps provide the needed shade for the plant. For this reason mature hardwood forest provide prime habitat for wild ginseng.
Big Rocks serve the purpose of “trapping or catching” the berries which fall or are wind blown from ginseng plants. These berries contain the seeds which grow ginseng, therefore, plants can often be found growing near large rocks which have caught the berries in years past and thus provide the shade to re-grow the plant.
Dead tress which have fell to the ground are also great locations to look for wild ginseng for the same reasons as large rocks. I probably find 25% of my “wild sen” by looking for downed trees in well shaded areas.
Companion Plants are plants which need the same type of environment as ginseng to grow. Many of these plants are easier to spot in the distance than the smaller ginseng plants so it’s sometimes a better strategy to spot the companion plants and then move in for a closer look at the area.
Some common companion plants are jack-in-the-pulpit, bloodroot, Solomon’s seal, ginger, ferns, blue cohose, trillium, goldenseal, sarasparilla, and black cohosh.
ferns are a common ginseng companion plant
Look For Companion Plants Such As The Ferns Above
In conclusion to find wild ginseng you need to learn how to identify the plant, find areas which provide the best growing conditions and then narrow those areas down to searchable locations. By looking for shaded areas, companion plants, large rocks and downed trees you’ll eventually stumble upon the prized wild ginseng plant.
After a few successful trips in the woods you’ll develop a keen eye for spotting the plant in the wild. As with most things in life the more time you spend looking for wild ginseng the better you’ll become at finding it.