Ginseng Poaching


American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a rare forest plant prized for its medicinal qualities. Originally used by Native Americans, the wild plant’s roots are now in high demand in Asia. The State of Virginia has listed American ginseng as a rare species, due to intense harvesting pressure.

Harvesting American ginseng is illegal in Shenandoah National Park, but poaching is taking place. When the park’s law enforcement rangers confiscate ginseng from poachers, it is critical to get the plant back in the ground swiftly if the plant is to survive. Before the replanting, however, park biologists mark the roots so that if the same plant is poached again, there is direct evidence that it came from Shenandoah National Park.

Shenandoah’s Ginseng Anti-poaching Initiative will provide comprehensive training for the park’s law enforcement staff, and public education and outreach as a deterrent to poaching. The project will include:

  • Training law enforcement officers on the common traits of poachers, plant identification, and root processing to ensure higher survival rate for replanted ginseng (current rate is 60%)
  • Updating internal-use-only maps identifying areas of highest ginseng concentration
  • Developing a public outreach campaign publicizing the park’s root marking policy as a deterrent to poaching

Your support of this project is critical to protecting the health of this rare species.