By Andrew Major, SNPT Communications Fellow
Ginseng poaching in Shenandoah National Park has become a serious problem over the years. The plant is sold for medicinal purposes all over the world, particularly in China, where its demand has nearly driven Asian Ginseng extinct. In order to prevent the same kind of over-harvesting, we are proud to be partnering with park staff to launch the Ginseng Anti-Poaching Initiative this year.
Ginseng harvesting has a long history in the Appalachian Mountains, going back to American Indian tribes gathering the plant. It was later gathered by settlers of the region and given as an energy stimulant, and even an aphrodisiac. Ginseng was a prized herb for “wildcrafters”, people who made a living by gathering medicinal herbs, because its roots could be sold to doctors, and are now sold abroad to eastern medicine shops in Asia. The decline of Asian Ginseng has led to a higher demand for the plant here in America, sparking the need for this Anti-Poaching Initiative.
This project will incorporate several different methods to try and prevent Ginseng poaching in our park. There will be events to train both law enforcement and the general public on how to identify Ginseng poachers, as well as well as efforts by the park to re-plant ginseng once it is confiscated so that the plant can continue to thrive. Park Rangers will be taught how to mark the roots of Ginseng plants so that if they are discovered in someone’s possession or at a market, it can be proven that the plants came from inside Shenandoah. Finally, more detailed maps will be made of areas with dense Ginseng populations so that they can be monitored more closely.
You can learn more about the project here and donate to help these efforts to help preserve Ginseng in Shenandoah National Park.