Walking Tours of Our Woodland Botanicals Research

On Thursday May 2nd extension agents Jenn Beck (Madison County), Meghan Baker (Buncombe County), and Bart Renner (Transylvania County) brought over 20 of their growers out to the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station to do a walking tour and discussion of our woodland plant test plots. All of the growers are interested in expanding their crop production to include woodland plants.

Ginseng receives the most attention of the woodland plants because of its high price. There are plenty of other woodland plants that have a market value including bloodroot, black cohosh, false unicorn, partridge berry, and goldenseal.  All of these plants take at least four years to reach a marketable age, but the investment in time and patience could pay off. We are regularly speaking with wholesale buyers who would like to form long-term relationships with growers who can have consistent supply of certain woodland botanicals. In the past, wholesale buyers and consolidators did not have trouble finding wild-harvesters to purchase material from. With land-development, over-harvesting, and many traditional wild-harvesters not harvesting anymore, obtaining plant material is becoming more difficult.

A few large-scale herb consolidators that we are working with tell us that the buying preferences are slowly changing. In the past, wild-plants were the preferred material. With the changing supply dynamics, buyers are recognizing the need to cultivate these plants in their native setting (also referred to as woods-cultivated or wild-simulated). One buyer simply stated that if people don’t start growing these plants now, in ten years these plants will not be commercially available.
Landowners in Western North Carolina are in a favorable position to fill this supply gap. Our hardwoods are the ideal home for many of these plants to flourish. Cultivating them in their native setting not only helps take pressure off of wild populations, but can bring additional income to landowners.

If you are an extension agent who would like to bring a group to the Research Station to do a walking tour of the woods to learn more about growing and marketing these plants; or if you are a landowner and have other landowners/growers interested in woodland botanicals, please contact Alison Dressler at alison_dressler@ncsu.edu or 828-684-3562 x150.

For more information about growing woodland botanicals and fungi, please visit ncherb.org

Alison Dressler is a Research Assistant in Jeanine Davis' NC Alternative Crops & Organics Program at NC State University.

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