My family owns a farm that had ginseng cultivated on it during the 1920's. I have been hunting there for three years. In the three years, I have only found one 4 prong plant. Is this an indication that someone else has been digging there in the recent past?? Does the number of prongs on a plant have any correlation to the age of the plant?? Thanks.
Age is determined by the neck scares, this is the end of the neck where the stem comes out, every year the neck grows and a new stem comes out leaving the scare from last years stem behind. This is not perfect either but the most accurate way. Prongs are not the way, unless you are a law maker.
Popjohn, There just aren't many absolutes with wild ginseng. Guy is rights when he tells you that the neck scars are the most accurate way to determine age, but even this isn't an absolute as wild ginseng sometimes skips years of growing a top at all. Generally speeking the more prongs the older the plant, but this is just a general guideline. The biggest, and I believe one of the oldest plants I've ever dug was just a 3-prong. The stem on that plant was as big around as my ring finger, but it wasn't very tall and only had about 20 neck scars. I believe it was much older than 20 years based on my experience and the size of that root.
I've also found some 4-prongs with only 5 or 6 neck scars, so you just never really know. Hope this is helpful to you. I'm not sure if you've been digging sang on your farm from what you've said in your post, but if you have I would suggest that you skip digging for a few years and spend that same time just planting ripened berries. I think this would really help to establish a better plot of seng plus give a few years of age to the plants that are already established there.
Just found this forum, been taking care and harvesting roots on my land for 30 years, took a while, but learned a few things. Everyone thinks shade is the answer, but sun is needed to start growing. If you have no other berry producing plants nearby, chances are slim ginseng will start there. Some of the best plants I ever found were sun spotted in the morning at that spot the sun shown on it for a few minutes. The rare large plant with none around gets above other plants early in the year, the small plants do not make it.
Cut some trees, do a small selective cut and in 2 years you might see plants come out of dormancy, that could be for some years. The dormant plants could have been dormant for quite some time.
The big mistake I first made was planting seed where no other plants were located, little success.