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Species diversity and use of biological resources

Asian ginseng

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Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is an endemic perennial with a thick pulpy root and single stalk.  Ginseng root consists of a bulb, a long neck, and a spindle-shaped root, which branches out in two shoots.  The shape of the ginseng root often resembles that of a person.  The plant’s white flowers are gathered in a simple umbrella.  Its fruit is red with flat, white seeds.  The height of the root is 30-70 cm.  Ginseng grows under the canopy of mixed coniferous-broadleaf forests.  Ginseng is also cultivated on herb plantations. 
The useful part of the ginseng plant is the root with accompanying rhizomes, which contain biologically active glycoside.  Ginseng has been used for centuries in Chinese medicines and is now being increasingly sold on international markets to Europe and the U.S.  Ginseng derivatives are used for producing food products, additives to beverages, tinctures, balsams, teas, and in perfume and cosmetics.  Wild ginseng now grows almost exclusively in Primorsky Province, though until the beginning of the 20th century its range extended south into China and North Korea, and north into Khabarovsky Province.  Ginseng grows individually or in groups in the area between the Sikhote-Alin Mountains and the Ussuri River.  Wild ginseng also grows in Heilongjiang Province and is collected in small quantities in the Wanda and Changbai mountain ridges.  The range of ginseng has remained mostly unchanged for the last 70 years though habitat integrity has decreased substantially and many of the areas are fragmented.
Two main factors have had a negative influence on wild ginseng: logging and harvesting.  Logging has destroyed or fragmented much of ginseng habitat.  Legally harvested ginseng in the USSR was for export.  From the 1930s-1980s, wild ginseng sold for three times less than cultivated ginseng, though wild ginseng is considered to be three times as potent.  Since 1991, illegal harvesting and trafficking of wild ginseng root increased with the opening of international markets, while demand for cultivated ginseng decreased.  In 1998, the harvest of wild ginseng was banned in Russia, yet large quantities of wild ginseng continue to be smuggled to Asian markets.  WWF/Traffic and customs officials estimated that more than 1,000 kg of raw ginseng are smuggled out of the country each year at a market value of $24-25 million (P. Fomenko 2005).  Customs officials confiscate only a small proportion of the trade.  WWF recently recommended that provision should be made to allow local people to employ traditional practices for assisting ginseng propagation in the wild.  Before the collection ban, 50% of all Soviet harvest came from the Tazy indigenous group, who preserved the ancient art of sustainable exploitation of wild populations (so-called wild ginseng gardens).  Presently all those who still practice this art are considered poachers and have no rights to the forests where they nurture ginseng.

Ginseng (Photo by V.Medvedev)


Map collections:

Species richness

Distribution of charismatic species

Wildlife trade destinations



Floristic zones

Terrestrial ecoregions


Major protected areas of Amur-Heilong

Small Hinggan transboundary area



Plant life in Amur basin

Logging and timber trade

Non-timber forest products

Also look:

Species richness in Amur-Heilong River Basin

Plants of life

Korean pine


The harvest of biological resources in China

Trade in flora and fauna in Russian Far East


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