Experimental greenhouse and field trials on American Ginseng, Panax quinquefolium: Implications for restoration in Appalachia
Panax quinquefolium, American ginseng, is one of the most valuable non-timber forest products, NTFPs, by providing economic, cultural, and ecological ecosystem services in forests. Although ginseng has a broad distribution range, it is not abundant anywhere due to overharvesting and deer browse. This study included experimental field and greenhouse trials to determine optimal growing conditions given discrepancies regarding aspect and soil. Three soil series were tested and either aspect (in the field) or soil moisture (in the greenhouse), a component of aspect, were manipulated in a factorial design resulting in six treatments. We hypothesized that there would be significant differences in ginseng performance (germination, survival, height, and leaf area) due to soil, aspect (field), and soil moisture (greenhouse). We predicted that ginseng would grow best in loam soil that was limed and perform the poorest in sandy loam soils. We also predicted that ginseng would grow best on northern sites or high soil moisture and poorest on southern sites or low soil moisture.
We found that soil type had a significant effect on height and leaf area in greenhouse and field trials (< 0.05). On average, field ginseng from the limed loam soil was 6 mm taller and 1250 mm2 larger in total leaf area than ginseng from sandy loam. Surprisingly, we found no effect of aspect or soil moisture on ginseng growth or survival. Having a better understanding of the ecology of ginseng, especially soil series, will help create a ginseng habitat model for national forests and private lands.