Ginseng Harvesting on the Chattahoochee National Forest

Ginseng plant

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests will not issue American ginseng harvest permits due to continued declines and low population levels observed through monitoring and surveys.

Commercial harvesting of wild ginseng has been occurring for the past 250 years. Declines are primarily attributed to long-term harvesting, more recent over harvesting, out-of-season harvest, and the taking of mature plants without planting the seeds for future crops. Other environmental factors may also be disrupting natural processes, including climate change, invasive species, and loss of suitable habitat over time. The number of plants now in Georgia's national forests is too low to be sustainbly harvested. 

“There’s a real danger that ginseng plants could disappear from this area, and that would be a terrible loss,” said Jimmy Rickard, ecologist and botanist for the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. “We need to pause the harvest now to help ensure that these plants will be here for our grandkids and their kids.” Rickard monitors wild ginseng levels and works closely with the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance and other partners to conserve native plant populations across the national forest.

Ginseng is a native plant of Georgia that grows mostly in cool, moist mountain forests. Permits are required to collect wild ginseng in the national forest.

Removing a wild ginseng plant or its parts from national forests without a permit is considered theft of public property. Penalties for plant poaching may include a fine up to $5,000 or 6-month sentence in federal prison, or both. Every plant on the national forest is public property and is sustainably managed by the Forest Service to meet the needs of present and future generations.