I took a walk with a friend through a mature mixed hardwood stand at an undisclosed location in Howard County. We found two aggregates of American Ginsing (Panax quinquefolius), one that included over 70 mature plants. It looks like peak flowering time will be in mid to late June, and we have made a point to mark a date in our calendars to revisit the site to do a photo essay, hopefully at peak flower.
The site was a rich, forested cove overlooking a stream with significant rock outcrops, draped with spleenwort. It was late, nearly 7:30 PM and it began to rain heavily as we left the site. Through the course of an hour plus, I documented 34 wildflower species.
American Ginsing is a MD DNR Natural Heritage Program watchlist species (S3) meaning that the plant is rare to uncommon with the number of occurrences typically ranging from 21 to 100 populations in Maryland.
So why is it becoming rare? When you Google the value of ginsing, the tuber roots go for well over $1,000 per pound and the roots have all manner of health benefits. The best way to protect the species is anonymity, hence the vagueness of this blog entry.