Wild American ginseng, America’s most famous medicinal plant, is in trouble. In plain prose, James McGraw explains why as he translates the latest in ecological and conservation science findings on this unassuming understory herb. As the world’s foremost authority on wild ginseng, McGraw is uniquely poised to present this story based on more than twenty years of uninterrupted field research.
McGraw traces the dramatic ecological history of ginseng in North America, documenting the ginseng-centric view of a world increasingly dominated by both direct and indirect actions of humans. Far more than a story of a single plant species, ginseng becomes a parable, a canary in a coal mine, for what is happening to our dwindling wild species across the globe. Documenting lingchi (death by a thousand cuts) in human interactions with wild species, McGraw shows us the evidence of our slowly eroding biodiversity and our diminishing global biotreasury.
Beyond merely documenting our destruction of nature, McGraw also offers a pathway to an optimistic future for ginseng and the wild species with whom we share the planet. He illuminates how a dramatic expansion of our commitment to sharing the planet with our fellow planetary companions is the key to preservation; and now is the time to do so.
James McGraw has written an informative, yet engaging memoir about his career-spanning efforts to study, and ultimately conserve, one of Appalachia’s most culturally and economically valued plants: American ginseng. But this is not just a book about ginseng; this is simultaneously a passionate recounting of the process of scientific discovery, along withsage suggestions for sustainable use and conservation of the entire Appalachian forest “biotreasury” in an age of extensive human influence.
—Eric Burkhart, program director, Appalachian Botany and Ethnobotany, Shaver's Creek Environmental Center
Management of medicinal plants and forest landscapes is at a critical crossroads, and James McGraw’s book is an important synthesis of insights from decades of research, diving deep into the ecology and complicated nature of this wild root. This book is for future students, herbalists, consumers, ginseng companies, Appalachian landowners, forest farmers, and the various agencies navigating trade of wild species. There is a lineage to our understanding of medicinal plants as teachers especially in regard to forest ecology, and McGraw’s book is now a critical link in that lineage. Wild American Ginseng
synthesizes decades of research, providing solid insight for future management and then sets the stage for questions still to be explored.
—Susan Leopold, executive director, United Plant Savers
James McGraw has written a marvelous book about one of the most interesting and perhaps misunderstood plants in all of North America. This in-depth analysis of wild American ginseng is based on more than twenty years of intensive, highly detailed, study of thirty natural populations spread across most of ginseng’s native range from New York to West Virginia and as far west as Indiana. Although not intended to be a textbook, the scientific information presented here will surprise even knowledgeable and experienced ginseng lovers. Anyone who is interested in ginseng’s biology, ecological and human made threats, with some possible solutions, will find it hard to put this book down from page one. I highly recommend it!
—Robert Layton Beyfuss, Cornell extension, author of The Practical Guide to Growing Ginseng
After having devoted forty-five years of my adult life to working with wild American ginseng, using it personally, and running one of the largest American ginseng farms in Wisconsin, I always wished I had James McGraw’s expertise to help change the course of human activities, which are driving wild Chinese ginseng to extinction. McGraw’s research has pointed out the course we humans have to take to preserve this invaluable American national treasure for our children’s children and generations more to come.
—Paul Hsu, founder, Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises, Wausau, Wisconsin
Wild American Ginseng
combines an introduction to plant population biology for the layman along with a discussion of the historical, social, cultural, economic, and environmental factors that affect the abundance of all species, but especially wild-harvested medicinal plants like ginseng.
—John Paul Schmidt, professor of ecology, University of Georgia