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Springtime at the Two Oceans Sanctuary for Wild Ginseng

At the Two Oceans Sanctuary for wild ginseng in Wisconsin, the first ginseng plants of the season have emerged. The characteristic five-leaf pattern is why American ginseng's scientific name is panax quinquefolius — literally 'five-leaf ginseng' in Latin. American ginseng naturally inhabits cool, shady forest floors canopied by hardwood trees. Each year, ginseng plants send up a new stalk (or 'prong') and set of leaves. The prongs die-back in winter as sunlight fades, the leaves freeze, and the plants are covered over by snow. Energy stored in the ginseng root supplies renewed growth each spring. The accumulation of fallen leaves and other organic matter — termed humus — creates a rich bed of natural nutrients and protects the ginseng plants from Wisconsin's cold winters.

A freshly-sprouted wild Wisconsin-American ginseng plant emerges from below a blanket of oak leaves.

Wild American ginseng is classified as an endangered species under the United Nations' Convention of the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). At the Two Oceans Sanctuary, we work to help wild Wisconsin ginseng populations recover from over-harvesting and habitat destruction. Each year, seeds are recovered and used to reintroduce wild Wisconsin ginseng into habitats where it has been lost.

Over years of practice, research, and refinement, Wisconsin ginseng gardeners pioneered the techniques used to simulate forest conditions so faithfully that their ginseng is often indistinguishable from forest-grown ginseng. Ginseng beds are situated in rich soil, are covered with straw and mulch each autumn, and are cooled from the summer sun by special coverings that provide optimal shade.

Purchasing sustainably cultivated, responsibly sourced, certified Wisconsin-American ginseng from Two Oceans Wellness helps us accomplish our mission of wild ginseng preservation — and also helps preserve the heritage and tradition of ginseng gardening. To achieve this, Two Oceans Wellness sets aside a portion of each sale through our website to helping wild ginseng populations recover.


Wisconsin-American ginseng plant showing its characteristic five-leaves.

When some plants first sprout from seed they are not recognizable as the plants they will grow into. Ginseng plants, however, are like people: they are recognizable as what they are when they first come into the world. This newly emerged ginseng plant already displays its characteristic five leaves. The plant will develop no additional stalks or leaves in its first year of life. It takes two years for ginseng seeds to germinate naturally underground before they sprout.

A two-year old ginseng plant recognizable by its two stalks or 'prongs'.

Each year of a ginseng plant's growth it adds another 'prong' with five leaves. This plant exhibits two years of leaf growth and was planted four years ago.

Ginseng plants are small and grow close to the forest floor. They love to hide and are difficult to spot when other plants grow around them.

Ginseng plants are small and grow close to the forest floor.

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