Which State Produces the Wildest Ginseng? (Solved & Explained!)

Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia have copious amounts of ginseng that grows wild. Out of the five states in the US, which state produces the wildest ginseng? It’s difficult to answer this with any certainty. Kentucky has boasting rights as being the largest producer but ginseng grows wild in every county in West Virginia.

However, the other three states – Indiana, Tennessee and North Carolina – have defined guidelines for harvesting. Kentucky and West Virginia do as well, with West Virginia being the most regulated. So while these states have some of the largest and wildest productions of ginseng, there are laws against harvesting it.

Kentucky or West Virginia: Which Produces the Wildest Ginseng?

Kentucky and West Virginia are famous for their plentitudes of wild ginseng. Unfortunately no one has ever measured how much one state has over the other. But, both have all three kinds of ginseng: American, Korean and Chinese.

Do Any Other States Produce Wild Ginseng?

Many other states produce wild ginseng too. As a matter of fact, the entire eastern half of the United States has some kind of ginseng growing wild in its forests. But some states, such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan have harsh laws against harvesting wild ginseng.

What Are the Laws About Harvesting Wild Ginseng in West Virginia?

While you don’t need a permit to dig up wild ginseng in West Virginia, you do need one for state forests, parks and nature preserves. Otherwise, the ginseng you take must have the following requirements:

  • Plant must be at least five years old with three prongs.
  • You have to plant replacement seeds at the harvest site.
  • You have to get the ginseng certified by a registered dealer before taking it across state lines.

What Are the Laws About Harvesting Wild Ginseng in Kentucky?

You do not need a permit to harvest wild ginseng in Kentucky. You can even harvest it for personal use from the Daniel Boone National Park but harvesting productions must first obtain a permit.

There only two laws in Kentucky for wild ginseng. The first law is that you can only harvest it between September 1st and December 1st. If you harvest out of season, the penalties can be as harsh as the possession of marijuana. The second is that the plant must be five years old or older.

What Are the Laws About Harvesting Wild Ginseng in Indiana?

Indiana has similar laws to that of Kentucky in regards to harvesting wild ginseng. You can harvest as much as you like so long as it’s for personal use and you didn’t take it from private property without permission. However, the taproot must have three or four prongs before you can dig it up, even if it’s at least five years old.

What Are the Laws About Harvesting Wild Ginseng in Tennessee?

Tennessee follows behind West Virginia in being one of the strictest states with their laws about harvesting wild ginseng. You have to get permits no matter who you are and you can’t leave the state without first visiting a certified dealer.

What Are the Laws About Harvesting Wild Ginseng in North Carolina?

North Carolina is another state with strict laws in regards to harvesting wild ginseng. However, there are some refinements and nuances to take note of. If harvesting wild ginseng on private property, there is no permit requirement. But, for all other harvesting, you must have a permit.

But the age and root requirements are the same as you would see them in Indiana or Kentucky. The plant must be at least five years old and have at least three prongs on the taproot.

Violations Carry Felony Charges

All parts of the ginseng plant are illegal to have between January 1st and August 31st. These carry hefty penalties that the state hastened even more as recently as 2019. You can face felony charges in a similar manner as if you had been trafficking illegal drugs over state lines.

If you want to collect ginseng from the private property of another person, you must first get written permission. It must have a signature along with the date. This agreement is only good for about three months.

What Are the Laws About Harvesting Wild Ginseng in Other States?

Almost every state has some sort of regulation about harvesting wild ginseng out of season. This is because there are also federal laws against it. You will have to check with the local Department of Natural Resources in each state before harvesting.

In general though, while most states don’t require a permit, you can only pick them sometime starting at the beginning of September to sometime into December. If you choose to plant wild-simulated ginseng, there are no harvesting regulations.

Why Is It Illegal to Harvest Wild Ginseng Out of Season?

In the 1970s, the health benefits of ginseng went viral. People everywhere started digging them up to the point that they were becoming endangered. Therefore the federal government and individual states took measures to regulate and monitor things.

Because it takes at least two years for a ginseng plant to mature, harvesting faster than they develop will mess up ecosystems in unpredictable ways. Other animals rely on the plants and so does its surrounding habitat, including the soil and other plants.

How Long Does It Take Wild Ginseng to Grow to Maturity?

It takes about two years for a wild ginseng plant start showing signs of maturity. This means it will take as much as five years for a ginseng to reach true adulthood. The root will appear forked, about three to eight inches long and ¼ to an inch thick.

Where Does Ginseng Grow Best?

You will find the best ginseng growing in a shaded spot in an area that receives 40 to 50 inches of rain each year. The wintertime temperatures should be 50°F or colder. The soil will be loamy and well-draining with a pH of around 5½.