I have long suspected that ginseng roots have remarkable regeneration powers. This fall I dug two roots that have grown entirely new necks and survived quite well for at least 10 years after the original neck was either rotted off or eaten by critters. Curious if others have seen this?
i too have seen this, sometimes you find a root that you just know must be older than what the neck shows.like you say sometimes the neck gets root rot or a log skidder rips the neck off then in a few years it send up another top
I have seen this on numerous occasions. In fact I've bought a couple of roots this fall that weighed about an ounce and a half apiece that had the original neck broke off just 4 or five scars up from the main body of the root, and then restarted growing a new neck out of the side of the old one. I've also seen 1/2 to 3/4 ounce wild roots that only had 2 or 3 scars on the neck. There is no doubt in my mind that damage had occured and a new bud was formed.
The absolute best example that I've ever seen though happened about 5 or 6 years ago while digging in my old honey hole. I ran accross 2 4prong tops growing out of the ground no more than a couple of inches from each other. They were growing in very rocky ground. I carefully dug both of them up, hoping to find one root with multiple tops (I have only ever found 1 like this in my area). What I found Instead was a 3/4 ounce root with a short neck with only a couple of scars, and a long neck with 15-20 scars and really no main root with it, although there were multiple hair roots growing off of it. I could clearly see where the neck had broken off the 3/4 ounce root. The only thing that made sense to me was that somehow the ground had shifted breaking that neck off and both parts had continued to grow. The surprising part of that find to me though was the fact that both parts continued to grow large tops. I've seen quite a few cases where the neck is larger close to the main root and some type of damage had occured and then a new but smaller neck continued up a a slighlty different angle and judging from the difference in the diameter of the neck the new growth was producing a smaller top.
I've been quite intrigued by this subject and am sure there is a lot to be learned. I'm sure that a person can't just chop up ginseng roots as a means of propogation, but also know beyond doubt that sometimes at least in older larger plants that regeneration sometimes occurs.
Dr. Beyfuss, I can clearly see in this pic where part of the main root has suffered some type of damage, but am not seeing any indication of where a neck was previously broken off. The other plant in the second pic appears to have a little bit of the old neck still remaining beside where a new neck has formed. Perhaps I'm just not seeing it in the first pic?
I found one like this also, new top growing out the top side. I am thinking this is the reason the plants are dormant a few years to get this part growing. A friend of mine had a shed built about seven years ago and this year about six feet from the door a four prong plant was growing (still is) and him or me had never seen this plant before, and we are both there quite a bit.
While convinced that ginseng can be dormant for years, I wonder if it can still grow while in the ground. If it can develop a new top, why can't it get larger?
Ginseng roots cannot grow without top growth that supplies food from photosynthesis
They only increase in size and weight when they grow big tops. They shrink when they get older and the site gets shadier. I think they attain maximum size at somewhwere between 15 and 20 years old. I dig some enormous roots (6 ounces and up)and some ancient roots (70 neck scars or more) but I never dig enormous, ancient roots.