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COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the American Ginseng in Canada


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
SiteTotal Plants
in 1987
Total Plants
in 1997
Protection/Land OwnershipObservations
Arnprior32033606PrivateIncrease 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.
Conservation AuthorityA: Undisturbed
B: Probably harvested. Next to a hiking trail that was subsequently relocated.
ON-024792389Provincial ParkMajor harvest in 1997 (50% of mature plants). Plants left are mainly young and non-reproductive.
Claremont113PrivateSelective cutting and understorey removal is the likely cause of the decline.
DuncanLake17051PrivateExtensively logged about five years ago.
0PrivateProbably harvested.
Harwood Plains209126PrivateColony declining due to harvest or deteriorating site conditions.
Lanark8960PrivatePartially harvested about 1990. Thinning and understorey removal may cause further decline.
ON-031230Provincial ParkProbably harvested.
ON-042756Provincial Nature ReserveUndisturbed.
ON-0548569 in 1997,
»65 in 1998
Provincial ParkHarvested in 1997, colony very visible. Severe canopy damage from the ice storm of 1998 may cause further declines.
ON-061613Provincial ParkProbably harvested, colony very visible.
Richmond393192PrivateLoss of canopy due to beaver activity may have caused the colony to decline.
ON-07111237Provincial ParkThe colony is recovering well after harvest between 1980 and 1987. Moderate canopy damage from the 1998 ice storm.
Speyside91PrivateProbably harvested, development and trails nearby.
StonehouseLake190PrivateMay have been harvested or declined due to beaver activity nearby.
Summerstown321PrivateMay have been harvested or declined due to habitat degradation.
Tillsonburg100PrivateHarvested or declined due to extensive logging several years ago.
Watsons Corners114PrivateHarvested in the mid-1990s.


Table 2: New Ontario Sites First Inventoried in 1997 and 1998
SiteDate Last SeenNumber of Plants1997/1998 CountProtection/ Land OwnershipObservations
Blue Mountain1993> 100240PrivateColony occurring in a steep-sided ravine protecting plants from cattle grazing in adjacent areas.
ON-081988Unknown15Provincial ParkA few isolated plants close to a trail.
Darling A1988150CrownRecent logging and road construction may have cause extirpation.
Darling B198852CrownProbably harvested.
Devil Lake1985> 250PrivateProbably harvested, next to a well-used portage.
Fortune Lake199049CrownIncrease due to a more careful search in 1997.
Hope Bay A1975Unknown0PrivateProbably harvested.
Hope Bay B1975Unknown0PrivateLogging probably eliminated the colony.
Kashwakamak Lake1980Several dozen37PrivateLogging eliminated much of the population shortly before 1980.
Lambton1996About 35226PrivateIncrease is due to more careful searching in 1997.
Lavant A, B1988A=11
CrownProbably harvested.
Mazinaw Lake1988Unknown122CrownMost mature plants harvested in 1997.
Nestleton1995720PrivateSelective logging observed.
Oxford Station1997Unknown58PrivateNew road built recently nearby.
Peterwhite A, B1991UnknownA=5
CrownRecent heavy logging probably eliminated B and may cause A to decline.
Point Abino19881751PrivateGood seed production but no recruitment.
Poland1990About 1230PrivateColony occurs in an operating sugar bush.
ON-09  ?Several plants0Provincial ParkColony disappeared due to harvesting or deer browsing.
Robson Lakes1975255PrivateExtensively logged in 1996. The remaining plants will disappear due to loss of canopy.
South Lake1992Hundreds575PrivateAt least 105 mature plants and fruit were harvested in 1997.
ON-10198990Conservation AreaColony probably disappeared due to harvesting.
ON-111987Rare25Provincial ParkGood seed production but no recruitment.


Figure 1: Ginseng Populations in Ontario

Figure 1: Ginseng populations in Ontario.

Table 3: Ginseng Populations Extirpated in Quebec
Threatening factors observed
GatineauLac Forcier1975Habitat loss or degradation. Selective logging observed.
Deux-MontagnesLachute1989Habitat loss. Construction of a cottage.
MontrealSainte-Anne-de-Bellevue1985Habitat degradation or harvest? Suburban area.
Montrealîle Bizard1990Habitat loss. Nature trails enlargements.
Vaudreuilîle Perrot1976Habitat degradation. Pesticides used along nearby hydro-electric lines.
RouvilleMt Rougemont1965Harvest?
ComptonCookshire1976Habitat degradation. Forest understorey cleared for operating sugar bush.
MontmorencyCap-Tourmente1944Habitat 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).