I'm inclined to think Whitjr is also right. If the seeds are in an idea enviroment with the right soil, light conditions etc., the outcome is always better. Thanks BCastle for sharing your expierence and knowledge on this matter. Great input from everybody.
It is really hard to tell if its the seed or the environment. The reason I say this is simple. In 1978 I dug well over 5 lbs dry of presumably wild root from the most beautiful valley loaded with ginseng that was mainly 4 prongs and well over 40 to 50 years old. These 4 prongs were so big, the dark rich loamy soil couldn't even hold the stalk up and the plants laid sideways along the ground with the top of the plant turning upward towards the sky.
I climbed up and down the steep walls of the valley and found ginseng that was hanging down the steep slope.
The majority of the plants had big red seed balls on them. I planted thousands upon thousands of presumably wild seed back into the soil at a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch. Was easy to do as the soil was so dark and loamy I just pushed them down with my finger.
Now that I described that area let me tell you the rest of the story. For what ever reason, that area never reproduced much of a next generation stand of ginseng. I watched it from year to year and a few grew here and there. No one dug seng in that area as it was in a housing development with large wooded lots.
It should be full of ginseng from the seed I planted over 30 years ago. But it isn't???
Anyway I never understood that.
By no means am I advocating not to replant the seed after you dig a root.
I'd assume it's predation like rootman said. You mentioned it was in a housing development which usually contain lots of squirrels, which could be the issue. It sounds like the seng you dug was there long before the development. So it would have been unaffected by squirrel predation. It's also possible that the development changed the local environment in some way that made it so the ginseng wouldn't grow as well.