The information at the link below, should answer some of the questions concerning Ginseng dormancy...just scroll down to my answer by huntsman53 to read what I wrote. I will add that Ginseng plants will go dormant for many reasons but the most common reasons are due to drought and loss of shade canopy due to logging and wild fires. I have even seen plants go dormant when we have seen nothing that could affect them at all but it happens. Many times when you dig a root that only has a 2 pronged or 3 pronged top but the root shows growth scars of plants that are 10, 15, 20, 25 or even 30 years old, the reason is because the plant was probably a 3 pronged or 4 pronged plant at one time but due to having to go dormant, they were knocked back down per see in their' prong development. It is sort of like saying that they have to almost start over due to dormancy and the longer the root and it's top or plant have to stay dormant, the worse it is on them. I have actually dug 4 pronged plants with small tops and skinny stems but according to the root scars, they were 50 to 100 years old or older. In reality, these may have been at one time in their' lives, 6 pronged or even 8 pronged plants but due to many periods of having to go dormant, they were knocked back down in their' life cycle process to 4 prongs. Heck, some of them may have even been knocked down to 3 prongs but I did not find and dig them until they had been able to recoup back to a 4 prong!
My redneck research tells me that the small 3 leafers that are 6 or 7 years old are due to the original seed. I have wild plants that I keep for seed and stratify myself.As well I purchase seed from other growers and I have noticed that the seed from my native plants produce a much stronger plant than those I purchase from states north from here. I got some from west virginia one year and they done better than seed from ohio and wisconsin. I was topping a patch that I know i planted in 05 and I had everything from three prong plants with roots as big as my little finger to three leafers the same age 8 inches from it.The seed production of the native plants is also much higher with larger seed. It my have something to do with the size of the plants. I top my plants hat are not bearing seeds in august I hope that explains why my roots are so small,But better small roots and a few more years til harvest than getting poached. To simplify when we purchase seed it can come from young plants and old plants they all get mixed together we know the older the plant the more berries and the larger size of the berries. Stronger plants produce stronger plants.