Goldenseal is an uncommon woodland herb whose rhizomes are widely harvested for their medicinal properties. Goldenseal populations regenerate from vegetative propagules that are broken-off from the primary rhizome during harvesting activities. While previous studies reported significant variability in re-growth among harvested populations, it is not entirely clear what drives differences in population re-growth. One hypothesis is that goldenseal populations re-grow at greater rates when harvested during the fall compared to mid-summer. Over a 4 y period, we biennially censused the re-growth of a goldenseal population that was wild-harvested during the fall 2001 from the Wayne National Forest in southern Ohio. Data were compared to previous studies that quantified the re-growth of a goldenseal population wild-harvested during the fall in West Virginia and to goldenseal populations (n = 3) experimentally harvested during mid-summer. Among the two fall-harvested populations, ramet densities increased by twofold in the Ohio population, but remained relatively stable in the West Virginia population. In contrast, average ramet leaf size was remarkably similar 2 and 4 y post-harvest, although the Ohio population appeared to be recovering at slightly faster rates. Comparison of data between all harvested populations supports a previous hypothesis that average ramet leaf-size in fall-harvested (after September) populations may recover at faster rates than populations harvested during mid-summer. Late-summer and fall represents the period in which goldenseal rhizomes are traditionally gathered. Based on cumulative results from these harvest studies and more recent studies on goldenseal ecology, we discuss some of the implications of wild-harvesting on goldenseal population growth and persistence. Determining sustainable harvesting rates under contrasting harvester regimes warrants further research.
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Vol. 156 • No. 2