“Dye said that 4,920 pounds of ginseng were harvested during the 2011 season, which was a 12 percent decline from the previous season. Robin Black, who has worked with the Division of Forestry’s (DOF) ginseng program for more than 20 years, said she’s not worried about ginseng digging ever ceasing, though. “Ginseng digging is a time-honored tradition, usually passed down from generation to generation. I don’t believe it will ever fade away,” Black said. “In fact, in many areas of West Virginia, digging ginseng provides a second or third income for many families especially during tough economic times. Ginseng digging is a great way for families to get out into the forest together, learn about the importance of sustaining a native species and make some extra money.”
“Ginseng plants are ready to harvest when their berries turn red. The plant is dug out of the ground and its roots removed. West Virginia state law requires anyone digging ginseng to replant the berries/seeds from the parent plant in the spot where it was harvested because this helps continue the species. The age of the plant is determined by the number of prongs; only plants with three or more prongs are considered old enough to harvest.”
Per DOF, the following laws also apply to the harvesting of ginseng:
• Anyone digging ginseng on someone else’s property must carry written permission from the landowner allowing him or her to harvest ginseng on the property.
• No permit is needed to dig wild ginseng.
• Digging ginseng on public lands, including state forests, wildlife management areas or state parks, is prohibited.
• Diggers have until March 31 of each year to sell to a registered West Virginia ginseng dealer or have roots weight-receipted at one of the Division of Forestry weigh stations.
• Possession of ginseng roots is prohibited from April 1 through Aug. 31 without a weight-receipt from the DOF.
• The ginseng digging season runs through Nov. 30.