• Goldenseal
  • Black Cohosh
  • Laddy Slipper Orchid
  • Trillium

By Glynis Board of West Virginia Broadcasting
For original publication and audio segment click here.

OCT 9, 2014

A new reality TV show that features ginseng hunting premiered this week. Smoky Mountain Gold pits four teams against each other to see who can collect the most wild-ginseng. It comes in the wake of another reality show that aired in January this year, Appalachian Outlaws. Dried ginseng root sells for 400-900 dollars a pound, and these reality shows are generating a lot of new interest in the plant. That might be a good thing for the ginseng industry… or it might not be.


Frame from National Geographic Channel's new ginseng reality TV show: Smoky Mountain Money, which pits teams against each other to see who can collect the most ginseng.
Credit National Geographic

Poaching Up-tick

Larry Harding is a ginseng farmer in Maryland. He cultivates the plant across 300 forest land acres; he sells seed, root, and even ginseng wine. He’s been in the ginseng business for decades. He says he gets hit by poachers every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and losses. Just a few weeks ago while he was patrolling his fields in the middle of the night he spotted a few head lamps in his crop...

“I called the law,” Harding said. Catching a poacher red-handed, with a law enforcement officer, is one of the only ways to be able to successfully prosecute a poacher. That’s exactly what Harding did. He aided officers in the arrest and learned in the process that the men traveled some 400 miles from Kentucky to steal his ginseng.

It might sound like a scene from a reality show, but this is real life. Harding says everyone he knows in the industry is seeing more interest and more theft this year since ginseng has been in the TV spotlight.

“Since Appalachian Outlaws, I’ve talked to several different people who’ve been hit,” Harding said. “I’ve been hit three times this year.”

This year:

West Virginia’s Division of Forestry reports a 300 percent increase in calls from people who want to know where to dig for ginseng and when; the Monongahela National Forest has issued twice the number of permits to dig; and the state’s Department of Natural Resources—which is in charge of enforcing the state’s ginseng regulations—reports increases in criminal activity.

The Slippery Slope to Extinction

“I know there’s no way we can continue down this path and still have something years down the road for my grandchildren,” said Lieutenant Woodrow Brogan, a law enforcement officer with the state DNR.

He’s been involved in a separate, year-long investigation that recently lead to a $180,000 ginseng bust and the arrest of 11 people in just one region of southern West Virginia. They were charged with illegally harvesting wild ginseng, or illegally buying and selling it.

Lt. Brogan has been with the DNR for 20 years. He also takes part in the nearly 300-year-old Appalachian tradition of harvesting wild ginseng.

“My father taught me that you don’t dig the smaller plants,” Brogan said. “You always leave some crops for next year. That was the tradition that we had; and most ginsengers I knew growing up, they had the same type of mentality, of conserving the resource. What we’re getting into now-a-days, is there’s folks going out and the only thing that they’re seeing is dollar bills.”

Boom or Bust?

The main markets for ginseng are in Asia. It’s an extremely popular medicinal herb there, and has been for over 2,000 years. Asian demand is increasing with booming populations and a growing middle class. That’s driving prices along with illegal harvesting in this country. Lt. Brogan thinks West Virginia has reached a crisis point where action is needed.

Current regulations vary from state to state, but in West Virginia:
you can only pick wild ginseng for three months in the fall,
only plants that are older than 5 years,
only in certain locations with permits or permission from landowners,
and you must have root certified with a dealer licensed by the state

These laws are designed to protect and preserve wild populations. But problems persist.

Program director of plant science at Shavers Creek Environmental Center at Penn State University, Eric Burkhart, thinks if the industry doesn’t get a handle on illegal activity, wild harvesting in the U.S. could soon go the way of Canada where it’s completely prohibited. He worries that would have unintended consequences.

“The concern there,” Burkhart said, “is that it would likely only drive out the good people who are involved in this industry—that is, the people who do have been following the rules, the people who do care about the plant, the people who do every late summer and fall and look for the berries and seeds and replant them.”

But all the new enthusiasm for ginseng could have a silver lining. Researchers and enthusiasts are excited more people are growing the native plant. They say a healthy, properly regulated ginseng industry could bring all kind of benefits to Appalachia, from economic diversity, to ecosystem protection, to preservation of the region’s unique natural and cultural history.

A new chapter in the story of Hawaii's sandalwood trees has begun, Hana Hou Magazine JULY 2014JULY 2014 During the Spring of 2014, our Executive Director, Susan Leopold travels to Hawaii to investigate the ongoing sustainability issues regarding the harvest of native Hawaiian Sandalwood and the various mapping, replanting, and conservation projects taking place on the Big Island. During her visit, she was interviewed by Shannon Wianecki of Hana Hou magazine. This is a wonderful article which gives a thorough overview of the history behind the Hawaiian Sandalwood trade and where it stands today amidst larger conservation and sustainability concerns. Click the image below to view the scanned article from Hana Hou June/July 2014, pp.86-95. To read the scanned article from Hana Hou June/July 2014, pp. 86-95: This article will also be available at a future date directly from Hana Hou's website.


Planting the Seeds of Mindfulness: United Plant Savers 2014 Community Grants cycle closes having supported a spectacular season of projects.JULY 31, 2014 (RUTLAND, OH) Planting the Seeds of Mindfulness: United Plant Savers 2014 Community Grants cycle closes having supported a spectacular season of projects. This was a popular year for United Plant Savers Community Grants program. This program, only available to our membership, is designed to support community-based projects that include the replanting of medicinal plants native to the United States and Canada. A total of three projects were funded this year including the successful proposals from Vermont Center for Integrated Herbalism (VCIH) of Montpelier, Vermont, Turtle Mountain Herbs of Rockford, Tennessee, and Northwest Middle School of Northwest Local Schools in Canal Fulton, Ohio.   United Plant Savers is honored to support the ‘Planting the Seeds of Mindfulness’ project at Northwest Middle School of Northwest Local School Districtof Canal Fulton, Ohio . Through this project, 15 Northwest Middle School students, will have the opportunity to create and plant a medicinal nature trail. These students will be working with Sandra Engle, School Psychologist and United Plant Savers member, planting Bloodroot, American Ginseng, Blue Cohosh, Black Cohosh, Ramps, Goldenseal, Wild Yam, Lobelia Inflata, Slippery Elm and Virginia Snakeroot. The Students will also be starting Echinacea and Arnica seeds and tending


Stakeholders Meet for Ginseng Summit, Discuss Industry To-Dos, To-Don’ts, Ta-DasJULY 16, 2014, RUTLAND, OH United Plant Savers was honored to host the 2014 American Ginseng Summit last month at our Goldenseal Botanical Sanctuary in Rutland, OH. Read below for an overview of what was spoken about in regards to safe-guarding wild populations of American Ginseng as well as protecting the American Ginseng export industry and creating a domestic market. We highly recommend you listen to the live NPR broadcast and coverage of the 2014 American Ginseng Summit HERE.   Ginseng Summit 2014 By Glynis Board, West Virginia Public Radio About 35 gathered, including producers, buyers, government enforcement agents, and academics, to discuss relevant topics within the ginseng industry. United Plan Savers hosted the summit. Susan Leopold, the medicinal native plant conservation group’s exec director, said there are two main goals of the summit, both focused on conserving the plant:
  • Conservation through cultivation; encouraging people to grow American Ginseng on their wood lots.
  • Promoting a national conservation plan that looks at protecting wild populations of genetic diversity throughout ginseng’s range.
Folks at the 2014 Ginseng Summit were also working to find ways to collaborate among themselves to develop and align best practices to sustain their agro-forest business. Demand for ginseng root in


United Plant Savers welcomes two new members to our Board of DirectorsJuly 15, 2014 RUTLAND, OH United Plant Savers is very pleased to welcome two new members to our Board of Directors, Todd Lynch of Ecotropy LLC and Melanie Carpenter of Zack Woods Herb Farm. Todd Lynch is the principal of Ecotropy LLC, a design studio that integrates medicinal plants, ecology and art to create outdoor healing spaces in order to strengthen and illustrate the connections shared by human and ecological health, and to empower people to take a more active part in their surroundings and their own well-being. Todd has collaborated on health and landscape restoration projects across the US and Canada, has won several design competitions and grants for environmental art installations and is trained in landscape architecture, health care garden design and community herbalism. He blogs about landscape, wellness and medicinal plants on his website, www.ecotropy.net, and his Twitter feed @ecotropy. Melanie Carpenter, is the co-founder and co-owner of Zack Woods Herb Farm-a 10 acre organic medicinal herb farm in central Vermont. Melanie grew up at Sage Mountain. It was there with Rosemary Gladstar that Melanie started her first business, Sage Mountain Herb Products. Over the last 25 years she has continued her work as


Ranking Tool Created for Medicinal Plants at Risk of Being Overharvested in the WildJULY 10, 2014 RUTLAND, OH United Plant Savers is delighted to announce the publication and launching of our 'At-Risk' Assessment Tool. We developed an adaptable, transparent tool that can be used to quantify and compare vulnerability to overharvest for wild collected medicinal plants. Subsequently, we are creating a list of the most threatened medicinal plants in temperate North America. The new tool scores species according to their life history, the effects of harvest, their abundance and range, habitat, and demand. The resulting rankings, based on explicit criteria rather than expert opinion, will make it easier to discuss areas of vulnerability and set conservation priorities. Here we present scores for 40 species assessed using the At-Risk Tool and discuss the traits that led to different scores for six example species: echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia DC. Asteraceae), peyote (Lophophora williamsii (Lem. ex Salm-Dyck) J.M. Coult. Cactaceae), sandalwood (Santalum spp. L. Santalaceae), stinging nettle (Urtica dioica L. Urticaceae), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L. Araliaceae) and mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum L. Berberidaceae). To read and download the full publication in the Journal of Ethnobiology click here. You can also read the publication as well as download and utilize the assessment tool here.
Planting the Future, Lawrence, Kansas, June 14, 2014“I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.” - Geronimo Step by step, the newness evolved into an expansive fascination. The natural world was wide-open like the blue skies above and rich like the orange glow of butterfly weed sprinkled around us in a cosmic constellation. For some, we had never laid our eyes upon a real prairie, and maybe only fantasized about what it must have been like with the roaming buffalo, or decorated with the freedom of the people indigenous to the landscape. Before the frontier, before settlers, before railroads and cornfields. United Plant Savers couldn’t have asked for a better venue to hold our Summer 2014 Planting the Future event. Hosted by the incredible efforts of the Kansas Biological Survey and the University of Kansas Field Station in Lawrence, Kansas, we were surrounded by innovation and dedication not only to preserving an ecosystem that is rapidly going extinct, but to a tradition of medicine that is also struggling to stay alive. The University of Kansas Field Station, the biological field station of the University


Dr. Lisa Castle receives 2014 Medicinal Plant Conservation Award in recognition of her work in launching the United Plant Savers JULY 9, 2014, RUTLAND, OH Dr. Lisa Castle was formally recognized as the recipient of United Plant Savers 2014 Medicinal Plant Conservation Award at our Planting the Future Conference in Lawrence, Kansas. We are indebted to her and eternally grateful for her work and her critical role in the publication and launching of United Plant Savers 'At-Risk' Assessment Tool.   From Left to Right: Dr. Kelly Kindscher of the University of Kansas, Dr. Lisa Castle 2014 MPCA Award Winner, Dr. Susan Leopold, Executive Director, United Plant Savers Lisa Castle, a plant ecologist, currently teaches biology at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. A lifelong lover of plants, her official interest in medicinal plants started in fifth grade when she wrote a school research paper on “Medicinal Uses of Herbs in Colonial America” at about the same time she planted an perennial herb garden in her parents’ backyard. Her work with the United Plant Savers began in 2000 when she started working with Dr. Kelly Kindscher at the University of Kansas to develop an assessment tool used to compare medicinal plants based on their vulnerability to overharvest. Over the next fourteen years, she worked with herbalists, herb growers, the UPS board, biology


HerbStalk 2014 raises $1000 for United Plant SaversJUNE 24, 2014, BOSTON, MA Steph Zabel The purpose of creating the first Herbstalk in 2012 was simple: herbalist Steph Zabel wanted to make a fun and accessible community gathering where people could learn more about using herbs in everyday life. The vibrant city of Somerville seemed to be the perfect setting for such an endeavor, being home to many open-minded folks who enjoy new ways of creating community with one another. No one ever expected such a large and diverse mix of people to show up from across MA and beyond, causing attendance to swell to almost 1,500 people in its first year. Beginning herbal students, seasoned herbalists, local families, and individuals curious about this local, quirky event all mingled together, enjoying a day of classes, workshops, and plant walks. In only its second year, Herbstalk had grown into a two-day event featuring beginner to advanced level classes, along with music, food, fun, children’s activities and vendors from across the Northeast. Our third annual Herbstalk took place on June 7th and 8th in Somerville, MA. We offered herbal classes for beginner and advanced herbal learners, city plant walks, and a wonderful marketplace of handcrafted herbal products. For the


Poster Giveaway

UpS Winter Spring Crone Poster eblast

Spring into action! Get this amazing poster by joining United Plant Savers. Click here for this and other amazing perks we are offering in honor of our members and the work of UpS. Let's save the plants together... one plant at a time, one conversation at a time — and one member at a time.

Gift Memberships Available!

gift mem


Symposium Proceedings Download

Seeking Nominations

Do you have someone or an organization in mind that you would like to nominate for the Medicinal Plant Conservation Award? If so send an email and tell us why. Nominations should be emailed to office@unitedplantsavers.org

Call for Articles

Time is running out! 
We want to include YOUR article
in the next Journal of Medicinal
Plant Conservation.
Deadline for submissions:
January 10th, 2018
for details click here

Events that Promote the
work and mission of UpS

Florida Herbal Conference
Lake Wales, Florida
February 23th-25th, 2018


United Plant Savers Medicinal Plant Conservation Certificate Program

Spring 2018: Monday, April 30 - Friday, June 8.
Fall 2018: Tuesday, Sept. 4 - Friday, Oct. 12.

Apply Online Now

ABFFC logo

PO Box 147, Rutland, OH 45775
Tel. (740) 742-3455
Email: office@UnitedPlantSavers.org



Sign Up for E-Bulletin News & Announcements

Email Marketing by VerticalResponse

© 2011 - 2015 United Plant Savers. All Rights Reserved. Site Design by Weathervane Graphics, LLC