Assessing the genetic diversity, distribution, and population status of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) in the eastern U.S.
John Young1, Tim King1, David Smith1
1 Leetown Science Center, US Geological Survey
in Conservation Biogeography
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is a North American native medicinal plant that is widely distributed but thought to be locally scarce because of legal and illegal harvest to supply international market demand. In an effort to better understand the distribution, diversity, and abundance of American ginseng, we conducted an extensive regional survey of suspected wild and known cultivated populations on public and private lands across 13 U.S. states. We developed a set of microsatellite DNA markers for genetic analysis and conducted a variety of population structure, diversity, and phylogeographic analyses. Our analysis shows that, while relatively diverse, American ginseng populations are small and heavily structured in natural settings, making them more vulnerable to extinction. We detected a strong phylogeographic signal in the regional data, but with significant translocation and admixture of suspected cultivated material, even on public lands. In order to better inform management on four U.S. National Forests, we recently initiated a more intensive follow-on survey to assess threats to distribution, diversity, and population viability under current harvest regimes.
Keywords: ginseng, genetics, population, diversity, distribution