Ginseng-Harvesters and Collectors
Good harvest and stewardship of American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) starts with you! By following the laws and regulations, which are set up to allow for plant reproduction, ginseng production can continue for generations.
Important Dates Dry Ginseng Season in Kentucky starts September 15
Harvesting Season: September 1 - December 1
Green Starts September 1
Dry Starts September 15 - March 31
Harvesters may obtain a weight receipt for holder root. The service is free of charge to harvesters, but is only available in our Frankfort office.
Ginseng Life Cycle
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a slow growing perennial plant. Ginseng Green Berries Perennial means it grows year after year. Ginseng propagation (growing) is mainly through the planting of seeds. When the top is removed before the berries mature in the fall - through wildlife browsing, topping to prevent theft, or with out-of-season harvest - these behaviors limit the ginseng plant's ability to reproduce.
Before a ginseng plant can reproduce, the ginseng must grow and mature enough to produce the berries that enclose the seeds.
Ginseng berries may contain 1 or 2 or more seeds per berry. The berries typically turn red in the fall. Some plants may produce red berries sooner; some produce later. Legal harvest is in the fall the allow for more berries to ripen and allow the seeds to have the best opportunity for future germination.
A ginseng seed must go through several cold cycles in order to germinate. This process typically takes a 18 to 24 months in nature.
Seeds are ideally planted 2 cm (5/8 inch) in the soil. Kentucky regulations state to plant with no tool other than your finger. The reason for this is a common sense approach to seed planting depth, as the ideal is about to one's first joint on their index finger.
Once ginseng produces a seedling, factors such as weather, soil conditions, amount of light, browsing from wildlife, habitat changes, and harvest impact if seedling will live long enough to produce seeds. Growing mature, marketable ginseng is a many year to decades long commitment.
A crop is not grown in one or two seasons like many other plants or animals. When discussing ginseng growth, decades is a better measurement than in years. One way to measure ginseng maturity is by the number of prongs a plant has. A prong is a set of 5 leaflet clusters with a central stem. Once a plant has more than one prong, you will find forks on the main stem that will lead to the 5 leaflet clusters. The number of these 5 leaflet clusters describe the number of prongs.
From seed to mature plant can occur in as little as 7 years in perfect growing conditions in nature, but realistically this cycle takes 12-15 years or more.
Common questions asked by Ginseng Harvesters
When can I harvest ginseng? Kentucky ginseng Harvest season begins September 1st and ends December 1st.
When can I harvest ginseng on my private property? Only during established legal harvest, under Kentucky regulation. Currently, that is September 1 - December 1 per calendar year.
Can I harvest ginseng on my own private property any time of the year? No. You can only legally harvest ginseng during established harvest season. This is set under Kentucky regulation. Currently, that is September 1 - December 1 per calendar year.
Do I need a permit to dig ginseng? Not currently, on private property, but you should ask permission of the property owner prior to harvesting, if you are not the landowner. You must follow the Kentucky laws for trespassing.
Harvesting on state property, including state parks is not allowed.
Harvesting in all federal management areas is not allowed. In the past the exception was for the Daniel Boone National Forest. The DBNF will not issue ginseng harvest permits for 2017.
What size of plant can I harvest? Plants must have at least 3 prongs with 5 leaflets on each prong. This is the minimum legal age. The market prefers roots that are 10 years and older. Any berries present must be planted within 50 feet of the harvested root with no tool other than your finger; the goal is to put the seeds in the soil just over half an inch deep.
How much is ginseng selling for? You will need to contact dealers directly to find out the current market value. We do not provide price reporting.
There are many factors that impact the value of the ginseng. How old was the plant? How well was the plant harvested (no nicks, cuts, entire root and fiber)? Was it washed? How was it washed? What is the quality of the ginseng you harvested? What is the supply and demand for that type of root? Is there a market for the character of your ginseng? Kentucky ginseng growing in the woods.
When can I sell my ginseng? You can sell fresh, green ginseng on September 1. Dry ginseng can be sold from September 15-March 31 to licensed Kentucky dealers.
Can I export my ginseng out of Kentucky? No, not as a digger/collector/harvester of ginseng. Only Kentucky licensed dealers can legally export ginseng out of Kentucky, and it must accompanied by appropriate documents. A harvester may apply to become a dealer to certify one's own roots.
Diggers, this includes mailing your ginseng to an out-of-state dealer, leaving the state post-harvest (out-of-state residents), or to meet with an out-of-state dealer by vehicle! Kentucky ginseng cannot legally leave the borders of Kentucky without an export certificated issued by our agency.
Can I sell my Kentucky ginseng on an auction site, such as E-bay? Yes, but you first must be a licensed Kentucky dealer. Then, you will need to have an Export Certificate from Kentucky for each lot. Lots are built based on the Purchase Form information. The maximum number of lots per Purchase Form is 10; one for each line on the Purchase Form.