Some tips for finding wild ginseng include searching in shady woodland areas with rich soil, finding areas with dense undergrowth, and identifying mature ginseng by its five leaflets, according to About.com. Carefully review the legal harvesting times and regulations in your state, and always replant the seeds from a harvested plant to conserve the original patch.
The range of American ginseng includes the Eastern portion of the United states south to Oklahoma and Georgia and north to Minnesota and Quebec, confirms About.com. Find it in moist, well-drained soil with a layer of decomposing forest litter. Look for plants 12 to 24 inches tall with at least four compound leaves each with five oval-shaped leaflets. The plant displays clusters of green-yellow flowers in mid-summer, and it normally produces two wrinkled, pea-sized berries that are bright red in color. Choosing mature plants of at least 5 years of age ensures a large, marketable root.
Harvest only plants with red fruit, and leave at least 75 percent left in the patch, instructs Wild Ginseng Conservation. Always obtain permission to harvest ginseng if not on your own property, and only pull plants after the first day of the ginseng harvest season in your state, usually September 1. Be aware that some states require a harvest permit.