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Ginseng Harvesting Banned In Nantahala And Pisgah National Forests

National Park Service
View of Looking Glass and Pisgah National Forest from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

There isn’t enough wild ginseng to harvest this year. That’s according to the U.S. Forest Service which will not be issuing any ginseng harvesting permits for the Nantahala or Pisgah National Forests in 2021.  

“We need to pause the harvest now to help ensure that these plants will be available in future years and for our grandkids and their kids,” said Gary Kauffman, botanist for the National Forests in North Carolina in a press release.

Credit Gary Kauffman/U.S. Forest Service
American Ginseng with fruit. Ginseng can be harvested in 19 states but not in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests this year.

Anyone removing wild ginseng plants or any of its parts from national forest lands without a permit may be fined up to $5,000, given a 6-month sentence in federal prison, or both.

“Every year we’ve seen fewer ginseng plants and the danger is that they’ll completely disappear from this area,” said Kauffman in a press release. He monitors plant levels and has worked with other organizations to reintroduce ginseng into the forest where the plant has been overharvested.

There has been commercial harvesting of wild ginseng for at least 250 years. But over-harvesting, digging up the plants out of season and not planting seeds for future crops have caused declines in the numbers of ginseng plants in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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