Ginseng season begins Tuesday, Sept. 1, and continues through Monday, Nov. 30.
To legally harvest, ginseng must be at least five years old and its seed-bearing berries bright red. The plant's age can be determined in two ways. A mature ginseng root has at least four bud scars at the base of the plant stem. Moreover, the leaf sections at the top of the plant will have at least three prongs.
The plant needs to mature at least five years to reproduce. The hunter must plant the herb’s last seeds, at least an inch down, at the site where the root was taken.
Poaching threatens the survival of wild ginseng. The plant's slow growth, increasing commercial pressure and shrinking habitat has given way to endangered species status. Ginseng hunters must have written permission to dig the plants from private property and are prohibited from digging on state-owned public lands. Diggers must provide government-issued photo identification to sell ginseng to a registered dealer. Fines range from $500 up to $1,000 for a first offense and $1,000 up to $2,000 for multiple offenses. Diggers have until March 31, 2021, to sell their ginseng. Regulations prohibit possession of ginseng roots from April 1 through Aug. 31 without a weight-receipt from the Division of Forestry. A weight receipt is a record of the ginseng dug during the current year and the individual who wants to hold it over to the next digging/buying season. West Virginia dealers purchased a total of 3,660 pounds for the 2019 ginseng season. Details on ginseng are available on the Division of Forestry website, https://wvforestry.com/ginseng-program/. The page includes how to identify mature ginseng plants, rules for harvesting and resources such as lists of West Virginia ginseng dealers and weigh stations.
Honoring the legal season and regulations helps preserve Appalachia’s endangered wild ginseng.