Species At Risk

American Ginseng

(Panax quinquefolius)


American Ginseng


American Ginseng is a perennial herb that grows up to 60 centimetres tall. Individual plants take several years to reach reproductive maturity. The root of this plant resembles a gnarly parsnip. The single stem ends in a whorl of one to four or occasionally five leaves. Each leaf typically has five leaflets radiating from a central point at the end of the leaf stem. Mature plants have an erect stem originating from the top of the main stem, at the center of the whorl of leaves, with a cluster of six to 20 inconspicuous greenish-white flowers. The fruit consists of fleshy, bright-red berries in a semi-spherical cluster.


American Ginseng ranges from Louisiana and Georgia north to New England and Minnesota. In Canada, it is found in southwestern Quebec and southern Ontario.


In Ontario, American Ginseng typically grows in rich, moist, but well-drained, and relatively mature, deciduous woods dominated by Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), White Ash (Fraxinus americana) and American Basswood (Tilia americana). It usually grows in deep, nutrient rich soil over limestone or marble bedrock.


The main threats to American Ginseng in Ontario are small population sizes with low reproductive potential, harvesting for commercial purposes, and habitat loss and degradation associated with clearing, logging and grazing. Small population sizes make American Ginseng especially susceptible to human-caused or natural disturbances of its habitat.


American Ginseng is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

In Ontario, American Ginseng is found on both private and public lands. Due to the significant commercial interest in American Ginseng, there remains a significant threat from the harvest of wild populations.

What You Can Do to Help the American Ginseng

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the American Ginseng. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find American Ginseng on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Did you know?

Aboriginal people have used American Ginseng for a wide range of medicinal purposes including treatment of headaches, earaches, rheumatism, convulsions, bleeding, fevers, vomiting, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and as a cure-all when other treatments failed.

Did you know?

In Asia, the root of the closely related Oriental Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.