Forest Grown Medicinal Plants to Increase Woodlot Income

Final Report for FNE98-220

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 1998: $1,545.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1998
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $2,050.00
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
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Project Information


Mr. Baylies experimented with establishing three sorts of medicinal herbs—St. Johnswort, ginseng, and goldenseal—in forested areas. For the St. Johnswort he selected a sunny site on well-drained gravelly sandy loam that had served as a log landing some years before. He cleared the area of brush in June 1998, and fertilized it with N and P. As an experiment in non-chemical weed control, he broadcast St. Johnswort seed over half the area and seeded the other half with a cover crop of Japanese millet. The following spring he turned the millet under, and planted St. Johnswort in its stead.

Mr. Baylies selected two shady locations on well-drained soil for the ginseng. He cleared the brush from both of these sites, and worked dolomitic lime into the soil at one location, and gypsum at the other. He applied P fertilizer, and planted seed and two-year old roots of ginseng at both locations. Goldenseal roots were also planted at these same locations.

Results: The cover crop of Japanese millet took well, and proved an effective weed control measure. The St. Johnswort that followed it came up stronger and healthier than that sown the year before, and free of weeds. Mr. Baylies notes however that soil samples he himself collected in wild stands of St. Johnswort showed that the plant thrives under conditions of low pH and fertility. Consequently, unless the site is first to be planted to a cover crop such as Japanese millet, he does not recommend application of fertilizer, as the weeds are likely to derive more benefit from this than will the St. Johnswort.

The ginseng plantings took, but sustained considerable damage from waterlogging at one of the sites that proved not to be as well-drained as it had appeared, and from small animals digging up the roots of the two-year old transplants. The goldenseal took well; the root of this plant is fibrous, in contrast to the fleshy root of ginseng, and so is not appetizing to small animals.

Mr. Baylies recommends direct seeding of St. Johnswort, as opposed to starting it elsewhere and transplanting it. He obtained good results this way, and found the labor required to be minimal. With regard to ginseng however, he advises careful assessment of drainage at the site, and protection of the roots with a wire mesh. His goldenseal has so far presented no problems. It has grown well in the same sorts of places where ginseng grows, and is more tolerant of light.


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  • Steve Turaj


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.