Cherokee National Forest not issuing ginseng permits in 2021

Smoky Mountains

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — No ginseng permits will be issued for Cherokee National Forest in 2021. The U.S. Forest Service says a decline in the production of the wild plant has led to concern about its harvesting.

“In light of major declines in populations of ginseng, we feel it is necessary to put a hold on issuing any permits this year,” Forest Supervisor JaSal Morris said. “It is our responsibility to ensure any harvesting of ginseng is sustainable.”

Ginseng is a native plant of Tennessee that grows mostly in cool, moist mountain forests. The perennial herb is prized for its large, fleshy roots which are believed to have medicinal value. 

Forests have been either restricting or eliminating permits for collecting medicinal herbs, especially ginseng, during the last 10 years. However, efforts to keep harvesting sustainable have not reversed the declines in ginseng populations.

Most state lands are closed to harvesting ginseng, including all state parks, natural areas, and state forests, and nearly all wildlife management areas. Collecting ginseng on state lands that are closed to harvesting is illegal and carries penalties and fines. It is also illegal to harvest ginseng on all National Park Service land. More information about Tennessee ginseng harvesting is available through

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