How to Identify American Ginseng

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American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is an herbaceous perennial that's a member of the ivy family. It's native to Eastern North America, especially the Ozark and Appalachian regions of the United States. American Ginseng was once common, but is now rare in the wild due to its value in herbal medicine. It's also commercially cultivated, especially in the United States and China.

  • Look at the stem of the American Ginseng. It grows vertically and may be up to two feet tall. The stem doesn't have hairs or branches, and has approximately three leaves on the end.

  • Observe the leaves of the American Ginseng. Each compound leaf consists of five leaflets that are widely spread apart. These leaflets are 2 1/2 to 6 inches long and up to 2 1/2 inches across. They are hairless with finely serrated teeth along the edges. The two outside leaflets are significantly smaller than the three leaflets in the middle.

  • Examine the American Ginseng's umbels. An umbel is a cluster of flowers on short stalks of equal length. The American Ginseng has a single umbel at the end of the central stem. Each umbel may be up to 3/4 inch across and contains 10 to 20 individual flowers.

  • Study the flowers of the American Ginseng. The flowers are no more than 1/8 inch across and have five spreading petals. They are greenish white and bloom for about two weeks in early summer.

  • Inspect the berries of the American Ginseng. They're bright red and about 3/4 inch across. They're round or oval, and usually contain two seeds. The berries of the American Ginseng replace its flowers in the fall.

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