Ginseng digging season starts Sept. 1
West Virginia’s ginseng digging season starts Sept. 1. Ginseng diggers, often called “sengers,” will be out in full force searching for the native herb that sold last year for an average of $410 per pound.
On average, it takes about 300 roots to make a pound of ginseng. The price of ginseng per pound fluctuates based on demand and has been recorded to sell from as high as $700 per pound to as low as $200 per pound.
In 2011, according to State Forester Randy Dye, ginseng generated approximately $2 million for West Virginia’s economy.
“People, especially here in West Virginia and in Asian cultures, have believed for centuries in the health benefits of ginseng, which makes the growing and digging of it economically important to the state’s economy and the harvesters’ wallets,” Dye said.
Dye said that 4,920 pounds of ginseng were harvested during the 2011 season, which was a 12 percent decline from the previous season. Robin Black, who has worked with the Division of Forestry’s (DOF) ginseng program for more than 20 years, said she’s not worried about ginseng digging ever ceasing, though.
“Ginseng digging is a time-honored tradition, usually passed down from generation to generation. I don’t believe it will ever fade away,” Black said. “In fact, in many areas of West Virginia, digging ginseng provides a second or third income for many families especially during tough economic times. Ginseng digging is a great way for families to get out into the forest together, learn about the importance of sustaining a native species and make some extra money.”
Ginseng plants are ready to harvest when their berries turn red. The plant is dug out of the ground and its roots removed. West Virginia state law requires anyone digging ginseng to replant the berries/seeds from the parent plant in the spot where it was harvested because this helps continue the species. Federal regulations set the minimum age a plant can be harvested at five years. The age of the plant is determined by the number of prongs; only plants with three or more prongs are considered old enough to harvest.
The following laws also apply to the harvesting of ginseng:
• Anyone digging ginseng on someone else’s property must carry written permission from the landowner allowing him or her to harvest ginseng on the property.
• No permit is needed to dig wild ginseng.
• Digging ginseng on public lands, including state forests, wildlife management areas or state parks, is prohibited.
• Diggers have until March 31 of each year to sell to a registered West Virginia ginseng dealer or have roots weight-receipted at one of the Division of Forestry weigh stations.
• Possession of ginseng roots is prohibited from April 1 through Aug. 31 without a weight-receipt from the DOF.
• The ginseng digging season runs through Nov. 30.
Beginning Sept. 1, a list of registered ginseng dealers for 2012-2013 will be available below.
Besides growing naturally in the woods, ginseng also is cultivated, but roots from cultivated plants typically are worth less per pound than those that grow wild. People who want to grow ginseng on their own property must get a grower’s permit and have a determination done on their property before the ginseng is planted. Determinations are done from April 15 to June 15 each year. Contact Robin Black for more information or with questions at 304-558-2788 ext. 51764.
West Virginia Ginseng Dealers List
DOF Ginseng Weigh Stations
Wild Ginseng History
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT STATE LAWS REGULATE GINSENG?
West Virginia Code §19-1A-3a mandates that the Division of Forestry weigh and certify all ginseng roots dug in the state. Ginseng plants must be at least 5 years old or older and have at least 3 prongs before they can be harvested. Seeds from the plant must be planted on the site of the harvest. Ginseng must be certified before leaving the boundaries of the state. Only registered dealers can certify ginseng.
WHAT FEDERAL LAWS REGULATE GINSENG?
Requirements for the export of wild ginseng out of the country are established by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. All ginseng plants must be at least 5 years of age and have at least 3 prongs before being harvested and therefore eligible for export.
HOW DO I DETERMINE THE AGE OF GINSENG ROOTS?
The age of a ginseng plant can be determined by looking at the base of the plant stem, where ?bud scars? occur. A 5 year old ginseng root will have at least 4 scars; the first year the root does not produce a scar.
WHEN CAN I DIG GINSENG?
The West Virginia ginseng digging season runs from September 1 through November 30 of each year.
DO I NEED A PERMIT OR LICENSE TO DIG GINSENG?
WHEN CAN I SELL GINSENG TO A REGISTERED DEALER?
The buying of green ginseng can start on September 1. The buying of dry ginseng should start after September 15 of each year. The selling season ends March 31 of each year.
MUST I SELL MY GINSENG THIS YEAR OR CAN I HOLD IT UNTIL NEXT YEAR?
In order to be able to hold or keep ginseng from season to season, you must have a weight receipt. A weight receipt is a record of the ginseng dug during the current year and may be obtained from a weigh station. The original weight receipt must accompany the ginseng when it is eventually sold.
CAN I DIG GINSENG ON ANYBODY'S PROPERTY?
An individual must have written permission to dig on private property. If that individual is caught digging ginseng illegally he or she can be prosecuted via the Trespass Law.
CAN I DIG GINSENG ON PUBLIC LANDS?
Digging of ginseng is not permitted on State Forests, State Parks, or other state-owned public lands. Permits to dig ginseng on the Monongahela National Forest may be obtained by calling (304) 636-1800. There is a fee associated with these permits.
HOW DO I GET MY GINSENG CERTIFIED?
To get ginseng certified you must be a registered dealer.
HOW DO I GET MY GINSENG WEIGHT RECEIPTED?
An individual must call one of our weigh stations and make an appointment to have their ginseng weight receipted.
WHAT IS A WEIGHT RECEIPT?
A weight receipt is a record of the ginseng dug during the current year and the individual would like to hold it over to the next digging/buying season.
WHO GETS THE WEIGHT RECEIPT?
The individual gets the white copy of the weigh receipt to go with the ginseng. Please stress that if they sell the ginseng the white copy of the weight MUST accompany the ginseng that is being sold. The dealer will send the weight receipt in with his 30-day report.
If a dealer has requested a weight receipt(I would suggest they just have it certified). The dealer gets the white and pink copy. White to stay with the ginseng the pink to go with his year end report to the Division of Forestry.
WHO CAN BECOME A REGISTERED DEALER?
Anyone can become a registered dealer if the prerequisites are met.
- They must have a West Virginia Business License. Anyone doing any type of business in West Virginia must have a Business License. The individual can contact the State Tax Department to request an application at 304-558-3333 or toll free within WV 1-800-982-8297. The Tax Department has six regional offices the individual can contact them about getting a business license. They are: Martinsburg 304-267-0022, Wheeling 304-238-1152, Parkersburg 1-800-982-8297, Huntington 304-528-5568, North Central 304-627-2109 or Beckley 304-256-6870.
- They must have a Workers' Compensation Certificate of Insurance if they have employees. They can contact Insurance Commission at 304-558-6279 ext. 1247,3200,1232 or 1229 for questions regarding if an exemption is needed or contact an insurance company who deals in Workers' Compensation Insurance to apply for a policy.
- They must have a certificate in good standing or letter stating compliance from Unemployment Compensation. They can be reached at 304-558-2677 Status Determination Unit.
- They must have a certified set of scales. The Dept. of Weights and Measures is the organization which certifies scales. They can contact them at 304-722-0602. We submit a list of dealers to this Department yearly.
- They must make application with us. They can receive and application by calling 304-558-2788.
Download Frequently Asked Questions About Ginseng Harvesting in West Virginia
A native plant of West Virginia, Ginseng grows in all 55 counties of the State but is prevalent in cool, moist forests. This perennial herb is highly prized for its large, fleshy roots that grow from two to six inches in length and a ¼ to a ½ inch in thickness. Ginseng is slow growing with seeds taking two years to germinate. The age of a Ginseng plant generally can be determined for the first three to five years by the number of its leaves, or prongs. Ginseng roots must be dug only when the plant has three or more prongs (with no fewer than 15 leaflets) indicating the plant is probably at least five years old and capable of producing fertile berries. The berries of the plant must be red in color indicating that they are mature. Younger plants have smaller roots and little or no financial value.
Collection of Ginseng in West Virginia is regulated by State law. Ginseng roots are to be dug only between September 1 and November 30 each year. Ginseng diggers, often called "sangers," are required to sow the seeds from harvested plants at the site of the digging, thereby perpetuating the species in its native habitat. During the digging season landowners may dig Ginseng on their own land or give written permission to others to dig on their land. Digging without written permission on posted or enclosed land is a criminal act and subject to fines and imprisonment. Ginseng buyers must obtain a permit from the WV Division of Forestry. Possession of uncertified Ginseng between April 1 and August 31 is illegal and substantial penalties are imposed on violators.
Ginseng has been harvested as a cash crop in West Virginia for at least 200 years. In 2002, more than 6,400 pounds of Ginseng, worth more than $2 million, were dug in West Virginia. Ginseng Harvest records from 1978 to 1999 for wild and cultivated plants are available by clicking Wild Ginseng Harvest History and Cultivated Ginseng Harvest History.
Ginseng has been used for centuries in North America and Asia. Allegedly teas, soups and medicines made from Ginseng roots cure sickness, increase vitality, relieve mental and physical fatigue and prolong life. In China the roots themselves are often chewed.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HARVESTING AND SELLING GINSENG,
CALL THE WEST VIRGINIA DIVISION OF FORESTRY AT (304) 558-2788.