American Ginseng

American Ginseng

(Panax quinquefolius)


  • Long-lived, slow-growing perennial herb found in rich, moist, mature deciduous forest
  • One to four compound leaves, stalked from the petiole from the main stem, comprised of five egg-shaped, short-pointed leaflets (seedlings are a single trifoliate leaf)
  • Small green flowers comprised of 5 petals and 5 stamens
  • Elongated root is often forked and tapering, and is sought for use in traditional Chinese medicine


Endangered Provincially and Nationally


Extends from southwestern Quebec, eastern and central Ontario south through the northeastern and mid-western United States to Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia.  Recorded at 65 sites in Ontario, but recent surveys suggest that one-quarter of these sites may have disappeared.


Significant population decreases have occurred over past 150 years because of harvesting, timber extraction, and clearing of land for agriculture and development. These threats persist today resulting in an estimated decline of at least 50% of the existing populations.  Hybridization with non-native Oriental Ginseng used in agriculture, and the introduction of disease from this introduced species, is also a threat to the native American Ginseng.


  • CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) controls international trade of American Ginseng or its parts
  • Ontario’s Endangered Species Act protects against collection, being killed or harmed
  • Planning Act protects significant habitat of endangered species from development on public land in southern Ontario (about 50% of wild American Ginseng populations are on public land)


Royal Ontario Museum: American Ginseng

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