American ginseng: COSEWIC assessment and status report: chapter 6


Ginseng occurs in the United States from New England and Minnesota south to Louisiana and Georgia. In Canada, it occurs in southwestern Quebec and southern Ontario. It is considered to be rare or uncommon in most of its North American range (Nault, 1997). Since 1988, 11 known populations were lost in Ontario (Tables 1, 2), and 35 new populations are reported based on site information recorded in the confidential Appendix 1 [22 new sites inventoried in Ontario (as listed in Table 2) and 13 additional sites recorded with collection dates in Appendix 1 that may still be extant]. The geographic range within Ontario (Figure 1), however, is essentially unchanged from that shown in the status report. A significant sampling effort has been undertaken in Quebec since 1994 (Nault, et al., 1997). Of the 59 ginseng locations studied in Quebec, ten populations have been extirpated (Table 3). The loss of two peripheral populations reduces the species distribution range by more than 100 km at its north-eastern limit (Figure 2).


Table 1: Ontario Sites Known in 1987 and Revisited 1996-1998
Site Total Plants
in 1987
Total Plants
in 1997
Protection/Land Ownership Observations
Arnprior 3203 3606 Private Increase due to a larger count area in 1997. Colony affected by disease. Very low seed production. Atypical habitat and the even spatial distribution of plants suggest the site was planted.
ON-01 A=97
Conservation Authority A: Undisturbed
B: Probably harvested. Next to a hiking trail that was subsequently relocated.
ON-02 479 2389 Provincial Park Major harvest in 1997 (50% of mature plants). Plants left are mainly young and non-reproductive.
Claremont 11 3 Private Selective cutting and understorey removal is the likely cause of the decline.
DuncanLake 170 51 Private Extensively logged about five years ago.
0 Private Probably harvested.
Harwood Plains 209 126 Private Colony declining due to harvest or deteriorating site conditions.
Lanark 89 60 Private Partially harvested about 1990. Thinning and understorey removal may cause further decline.
ON-03 123 0 Provincial Park Probably harvested.
ON-04 27 56 Provincial Nature Reserve Undisturbed.
ON-05 48 569 in 1997,
»65 in 1998
Provincial Park Harvested in 1997, colony very visible. Severe canopy damage from the ice storm of 1998 may cause further declines.
ON-06 16 13 Provincial Park Probably harvested, colony very visible.
Richmond 393 192 Private Loss of canopy due to beaver activity may have caused the colony to decline.
ON-07 111 237 Provincial Park The colony is recovering well after harvest between 1980 and 1987. Moderate canopy damage from the 1998 ice storm.
Speyside 9 1 Private Probably harvested, development and trails nearby.
StonehouseLake 19 0 Private May have been harvested or declined due to beaver activity nearby.
Summerstown 32 1 Private May have been harvested or declined due to habitat degradation.
Tillsonburg 10 0 Private Harvested or declined due to extensive logging several years ago.
Watsons Corners 11 4 Private Harvested in the mid-1990s.


Table 2: New Ontario Sites First Inventoried in 1997 and 1998
Site Date Last Seen Number of Plants 1997/1998 Count Protection/ Land Ownership Observations
Blue Mountain 1993 > 100 240 Private Colony occurring in a steep-sided ravine protecting plants from cattle grazing in adjacent areas.
ON-08 1988 Unknown 15 Provincial Park A few isolated plants close to a trail.
Darling A 1988 15 0 Crown Recent logging and road construction may have cause extirpation.
Darling B 1988 5 2 Crown Probably harvested.
Devil Lake 1985 > 25 0 Private Probably harvested, next to a well-used portage.
Fortune Lake 1990 4 9 Crown Increase due to a more careful search in 1997.
Hope Bay A 1975 Unknown 0 Private Probably harvested.
Hope Bay B 1975 Unknown 0 Private Logging probably eliminated the colony.
Kashwakamak Lake 1980 Several dozen 37 Private Logging eliminated much of the population shortly before 1980.
Lambton 1996 About 35 226 Private Increase is due to more careful searching in 1997.
Lavant A, B 1988 A=11
Crown Probably harvested.
Mazinaw Lake 1988 Unknown 122 Crown Most mature plants harvested in 1997.
Nestleton 1995 7 20 Private Selective logging observed.
Oxford Station 1997 Unknown 58 Private New road built recently nearby.
Peterwhite A, B 1991 Unknown A=5
Crown Recent heavy logging probably eliminated B and may cause A to decline.
Point Abino 1988 17 51 Private Good seed production but no recruitment.
Poland 1990 About 12 30 Private Colony occurs in an operating sugar bush.
ON-09   ? Several plants 0 Provincial Park Colony disappeared due to harvesting or deer browsing.
Robson Lakes 1975 25 5 Private Extensively logged in 1996. The remaining plants will disappear due to loss of canopy.
South Lake 1992 Hundreds 575 Private At least 105 mature plants and fruit were harvested in 1997.
ON-10 1989 9 0 Conservation Area Colony probably disappeared due to harvesting.
ON-11 1987 Rare 25 Provincial Park Good seed production but no recruitment.


Figure 1: Ginseng Populations in Ontario

Figure 1: Ginseng populations in Ontario.
Table 3: Ginseng Populations Extirpated in Quebec
County Site Last
Threatening factors observed
Gatineau Escarpement
1990 Harvest?
Gatineau Lac Forcier 1975 Habitat loss or degradation. Selective logging observed.
Pontiac Quyon 1987 Harvest.
Deux-Montagnes Lachute 1989 Habitat loss. Construction of a cottage.
Montreal Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue 1985 Habitat degradation or harvest? Suburban area.
Montreal île Bizard 1990 Habitat loss. Nature trails enlargements.
Vaudreuil île Perrot 1976 Habitat degradation. Pesticides used along nearby hydro-electric lines.
Rouville Mt Rougemont 1965 Harvest?
Compton Cookshire 1976 Habitat degradation. Forest understorey cleared for operating sugar bush.
Montmorency Cap-Tourmente 1944 Habitat degradation? Peripheral site.


Figure 2: Ginseng Populations Surveyed in Quebec from 1994 to 1998 (N=59)

Figure 2: Ginseng populations surveyed in Quebec from 1994 to 1998 (N=59).

Historical records were discarded from field surveys when insufficient information was provided or suitable habitat was lost (see Appendix 2).


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