McGraw J., M. Van der Voort, M. Furedi, A. Lubbers, E. Mooney, S. Souther, J. Turner-Skoff, J. Chandler, E. Thyroff. 2017. Long Term Research in Environmental Biology: Demographic census data for thirty natural populations of American Ginseng: 1998-2016. Environmental Data Initiative. http://dx.doi.org/10.6073/pasta/d563972ac7e6a14a9b34bdad08d18e3a.
In 1998, formal demographic censusing of wild ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) populations was initiated in West Virginia. By 2004, thirty populations had been added to the census effort, spanning seven states (IN-2, KY-6, MD-1, NY-2, PA-2, VA-5, WV-12) and a wide variety of land use histories and eastern deciduous forest communities. The censusing effort continued without interruption at all populations until June, 2016. Annually, each population was visited twice. The first visit generally occurred between late May and the end of June. The second visit generally occurred in the first three weeks of August. The purpose of the spring census was to assess the population status at the time of year when the largest number of individuals were visible aboveground (post-germination, prior to substantial losses due to browsing and other causes). Detailed measures of plant size were made, with an emphasis on total leaf area calculation. In addition, a variety of plant condition notations were made, with the ultimate goal of determining mortality and recruitment in the population, as well as individual size transitions. The primary purpose of the second census each year was to assess seed production on each plant. In addition, further notations of plant condition were made to assess changes over the growing season. To maintain methodological consistency with field personnel turnover, the lead author participated in fieldwork throughout the study, visiting each population at least once every two years. In addition, after being trained themselves, graduate students trained undergraduate conservation interns to assure consistent methods were used each year. The data are suitable for demographic modeling, and the unique spatial and temporal extent allow the exploration of important questions about variability in population growth and viability of ginseng, America’s premiere wild harvested medicinal plant.