Scientific name: Panax quinquefolius
Cover photo credit: Rob Tervo
“Endangered” means the species lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.
Date added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List
The American Ginseng was already assessed as endangered when the Endangered Species Act took effect in 2008.
What it looks like
American Ginseng is a perennial herb that grows up to 60 centimetres tall. Individual plants take several years to reach reproductive maturity.
The root of this plant resembles a gnarly parsnip. The single stem ends in a whorl of one to four or occasionally five leaves.
Each leaf typically has five leaflets radiating from a central point at the end of the leaf stem.
Mature plants have an erect stem originating from the top of the main stem, at the center of the whorl of leaves, with a cluster of six to 20 inconspicuous greenish-white flowers. The fruit consists of fleshy, bright-red berries in a semi-spherical cluster.
Where it lives
In Ontario, American Ginseng typically grows in rich, moist, but well-drained, and relatively mature, deciduous woods dominated by Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), White Ash (Fraxinus americana) and American Basswood (Tilia americana).
It usually grows in deep, nutrient rich soil over limestone or marble bedrock.
Where it’s been found in Ontario
American Ginseng ranges from Louisiana and Georgia north to New England and Minnesota. In Canada, it is found in southwestern Quebec and southern Ontario.
What threatens it
The main threats to American Ginseng in Ontario are small population sizes with low reproductive potential, harvesting for commercial purposes, and habitat loss and degradation associated with clearing, logging and grazing.
Small population sizes make American Ginseng especially susceptible to human-caused or natural disturbances of its habitat.
Action we are taking
Endangered Species and their general habitat are automatically protected.
A recovery strategy advises the ministry on ways to ensure healthy numbers of the species return to Ontario.
Read the executive summary and the full document (July 22, 2019)
Government response statement
A government response statement outlines the actions the government intends to take or support to help recover the species.
Read the government response statement (April 23, 2020)
General habitat descriptions are technical, science-based documents that provide greater clarity on the area of habitat protected for a species.
Read the general habitat description (July 2, 2013)
What you can do
Report a sighting
- Report a sighting of an endangered animal or plant to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful.
- Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
Be a good steward
- Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find American Ginseng on your land, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
Report illegal activity
- Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to
- Aboriginal people have used American Ginseng for a wide range of medicinal purposes including treatment of headaches, earaches, rheumatism, convulsions, bleeding, fevers, vomiting, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and as a cure-all when other treatments failed.
- In Asia, the root of the closely related Oriental Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years.