Panax quinquefolius, American ginseng, is one of the most valuable non-timber forest products providing provisioning and cultural ecosystem services in eastern temperate forests. Although ginseng has a broad distribution range, populations are declining due to several factors including overharvesting and habitat degradation. We designed experiments to study the effects of soil and aspect on ginseng to better identify potential reintroduction sites. We hypothesized soil and aspect would have a significant effect on ginseng performance. Performance included growth (leaf area, height, number of prongs) and reproduction (inflorescence presence). We predicted ginseng would have greatest performance in calcium-rich loam soil, on north-facing slopes. After four growing seasons, we found only soil had a significant effect on growth. This was a consistent result over four growing seasons. On average, ginseng grown in limed loam soil were 55-mm taller with 20,000 mm2 more leaf area and more prongs than ginseng grown in soils lower in calcium. Aspect did not affect any measured variables. Given these results, we suggest identifying soils with higher levels of calcium regardless of aspect as potential ginseng habitat. This experimental study contributes to a more complete understanding of the ecology of ginseng. Further, these results can be incorporated into developing strategies for restoration and management of this valuable species.
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Vol. 39 • No. 3