Ginseng under Coniferous Trees
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: J Sodini
Posted on: September 4, 1998

I noted in both of your responses to questions on ginseng that ginseng will be affected by fungi found in needletrees.

What specific fungi affect the ginseng? At what point during the plant growth does the fungus affect the ginseng - immediately after emergence or over a period of time?

I would guess both.

Are there any research papers or articles available on this specific fungus growth in needletrees killing ginseng? Where has this been reported? Is there a fungicide which can be applied to prevent its growth (e.g. Diathane or Alliette)?

Most of these assumptions are folkloric in nature. From personal experience I know that whenever I planted ginseng seed under a pineneedle or spruceneedle mulch the seedlings came up in spring and a couple of weeks later they were dead. The book "Cultivation and Utilization of Medicinal Plants" by the Regional Research Laboratory, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research in Jamma-Tawi, India, also warns not to use alder or pine sawdust. However the same book states that ginseng has been cultivated in the USSR in a forest of Korean pine. Therefore, it seems not all conifers are lethal to ginseng.

Botanists now recognize that it appears most forest trees have mycorrhizal fungi associated with their roots. These fungi act like aggressive extensions of the trees’ root system and may be fatal to plants that are not able to hold them in check as well as the host trees. Since coniferous trees also add resins to the soil via their fallen needles, while deciduous hardwoods add tannins via their fallrn leaves, the situation is probably rather complex.

In a coniferous forest plants cannot get enough light if they are removed from the edge of the forest and die of starvation. Plants such as ginseng that are able to survive in deciduous forests do most of their photosynthesizing and therefore food production in the time from emergence in April to the time of canopy closure after the trees leaf out in May.

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