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For information on Wisconsin's rare plants, contact:
Kevin Doyle

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)

Life history

Species overview

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found in rich, hardwood forests throughout state. Blooming occurs June through July; fruiting occurs September through October. The optimal identification period for this species is June through October.

Synonyms: None


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished from dwarf ginseng (P. trifolius) by larger size of plants and the presence of leaflets with petiolules.
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers greenish white, bisexual.
  • Fruit characteristics: Red berry-like fruit.
  • Leaf characteristics: Whorled, 3 to 5 palmately compound leaves; leaflets 3 to 5, toothed.


  • Blooming phenology: June through July
  • Fruiting phenology: September through October
  • Optimum time to identify: June through October


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Acer saccaharum, Tilia americana Carya cordiformis, Celtis occidentalis, Quercus rubra, Hydrophyllum virginianum, Laportea canadensis.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is on the "watch list." Watch list species have experienced, or are believed to have experienced, a statewide or range wide decline, but they are not currently tracked in the Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) database. The watch list includes newly discovered species for which origin and rarity need to be determined, certain animals designated as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan, and species that were tracked in the past but proved more abundant, widespread or less vulnerable than previously thought. Although watch list species are not actively tracked by NHI, occurrences documented during surveys are often stored by NHI, as these species could be tracked in the future if there is further evidence of their decline.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS4
Global RankG3G4
Tracked by NHIW

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in rich, hardwood forests throughout state.
  • Soils: Rich, humic soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with American Ginseng. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Southern Mesic Forest 3
Northern Mesic Forest 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for American Ginseng. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid locating landings, staging areas, or access routes on or near known populations.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Avoid rapid and dramatic reductions in canopy cover or basal area in wet areas to reduce risk of swamping.
  • Maintain high forest canopy cover; this species requires shaded habitat conditions.


American Ginseng  Photo.

Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).

Photo by Andy Clark, Wisconsin DNR.

American Ginseng  Photo.

American ginseng, Rusk County.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

American Ginseng  Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

American Ginseng  Photo.

Photo © Barbara Delaney.

American Ginseng  Photo.

Photo © Barbara Delaney.

American Ginseng  Photo.

Photo © Barbara Delaney.

American Ginseng  Photo.

Photo © Barbara Delaney.

American Ginseng  Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition