CHARLESTON — The ginseng digging season begins on Tuesday, Sept. 1 throughout the state.
The season, which is regulated by the West Virginia Division of Forestry (DOF), on hunting and harvesting ginseng will continue through Nov. 30.
Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Agent for Mason and Putnam counties Ben Goff said that ginseng is a native plant to the area.
“Ginseng grows in a heavily wooded area with rich soils,” Goff told the Register. “The plants thrive in moist cool conditions with shade, so recently logged areas will have little.”
Goff said that ginseng can often be found in areas with oaks, ash or sugar maple trees.
Goff said there is no license needed to harvest ginseng. He said the best way to find ginseng is to take a hike through the woods and look for it.
According to Goff, who used to dig ginseng to help pay for school supplies and clothes while growing up, the number of leaves on a stem indicates the age of the plant.
Goff said that ginseng usually has between one and seven leaves on the stem. Leaves usually have five leaflets — three bigger ones and two smaller.
The DOF code states that plants must be at least five years old and have three “prongs” or leaves.
The ginseng plant has red berries. If those berries, or seeds are on the plant, they must be planted on the site of the harvest for future harvest.
Goff said that ginseng roots has been used for years for medicinal purposes. According to Goff, Native American’s made teas with the roots.
Goff said that most ginseng harvested in the state now is exported to China to be used in various medications.
The DOF code mandates that the harvested ginseng roots be weighed and certified, which can be done by registered dealers. The ginseng must be certified before leaving the state.
Harvesters have until March 31 to sell the ginseng to a registered dealer or have the roots weighed at a DOF weigh station.
The DOF says that possession of ginseng roots is illegal from April 1 through August 31 each year without a weight-receipt.
A list of registered ginseng dealers can be found on the DOF website.
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Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.