The ginseng harvest season in Virginia started on Sept. 1. American ginseng, which grows wild in Virginia’s forests, is listed as a threatened species under Virginia’s Endangered Plant and Insect Species Act.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) regulates wild ginseng harvesting and sales in the Commonwealth and advises diggers to be aware of laws protecting this valued plant before heading to the woods.
Ginseng collection is prohibited on most public lands in Virginia, including state and national forests and parks. On public lands where ginseng harvesting is allowed, whether state, federal, or local lands, diggers must obtain a permit from the appropriate agency before harvesting any ginseng.
Collecting any portion of the plant, including the berries, for personal or commercial use from some federal lands is strictly prohibited.
Anyone caught removing ginseng from federal lands without a permit may be fined up to a $5,000, six months in jail or both. Violation of Virginia’s wild ginseng harvest regulations is punishable by imprisonment for up to 12 months, up to a $2,500 fine, or both.
Anyone harvesting ginseng from private property must obtain permission from the property owner before plants are removed. Permission should be in writing and kept with the individual harvester at the time of harvest.
When harvesting wild ginseng, diggers shall comply with the following provisions:
- Wild ginseng harvest season begins on Sept. 1 and ends on Dec. 31 of each year. Wild ginseng cannot be harvested from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31.
- Wild ginseng that is younger than five years old, has fewer than four stem scars present on its rhizome or has fewer than three prongs cannot be harvested.
- Any person who harvests wild ginseng must plant the seeds of the harvested plant at the harvest site at the time of harvest.
Ginseng harvest regulations do not apply to individuals harvesting wild ginseng from their own land. Landowners are encouraged to observe the same size and age restrictions and seed planting guidelines to help ensure the continued, long-term viability of wild ginseng when digging ginseng on their property.
The root of the American ginseng plant is valued as a medicinal herb. During the 2019 season, approximately 1,700 pounds of ginseng roots were harvested in Virginia, with a value of nearly $1.03 million. It takes between 250 and 300 roots to acquire one pound of wild ginseng.
Individuals shipping or transporting ginseng from Virginia in amounts of eight ounces or greater per calendar year must have the ginseng certified by VDACS. Individuals buying or accepting ginseng to sell must obtain a license from VDACS.