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Dwarf Ginseng, Ground Nut - Panax trifolius


Family: Araliaceae - Ginseng family Genus Common Name: Ginseng Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Herb
Panax trifolius - Dwarf Ginseng, Ground Nut. Panax is a genus of about 14 species, 2 of which are native to North America. The more widespread of these two species is Panax quinquefolius - American Ginseng. It has been been so ardently harvested for its medicinal root to the point where it is difficult to find in areas where it has been common in the past, and many jurisdictions have passed restrictions on its collection, but is native to most North America east of the Great Plains. The species presented here, Panax trifolius - Dwarf Ginseng - is a smaller, more northern species, but is found as far south as the Cumberland Plateau and Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and Georgia. Fortunately, it is not collected for its root, which, pungent but edible, is not considered of significant medicinal value.

Found in:
CT, DC, DE, GA, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV, GS
Panax trifolius

Distribution of Panax trifolius in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 16 Aug 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Collins Gulf Trail, Savage Gulch State Natural Area, Grundy County, TN Date: 2017-April-04Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The inflorescence of Panax trifolius is an umbel of white or pinkish flowers that can look like a tiny circle when viewed from above. I was surprised at how small this plant is - the inflorescence is about the size of my thumbnail.
Panax trifolius

Site: Collins Gulf Trail, Savage Gulch State Natural Area, Grundy County, TN Date: 2017-April-04Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The flower Dwarf Ginseng is carried on a white pedicel, has 5 white petals, a white calyx, white stamens, and 1 or 3 white styles. The plant may have all male flowers, in which case each flower will have a single style, or perfect flowers (those with both stamens and pistils) which have 3 styles per flower. The flowers may fade to pink; the fruit will ripen to a yellow color (big brother Panax quinquefolius has red drupes.)
Click on the photo for a larger image
Panax trifolius

Site: Collins Gulf Trail, Savage Gulch State Natural Area, Grundy County, TN Date: 2017-April-04Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The species epithet "trifolius" implies the normal leaf formation for Panax trifolius - a whorl of three compound leaves each with three (sometimes four of five) leaflets. The leaf margins are serrate. The plant is really small, rising 4 to 8 inches above the duff of the moist forests where it grows. The larger species Panax quinquefolius will normally have 5 leaflets; sometimes as few as three.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Panax trifolius

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer