Panax ginseng and Panax quiquefolius reproduce by seeds and asexual reproduction using rhizomes and roots. There is very little genetic variation within an individual population but between the different populations that occur over the world each Ginseng plant species is very different. Ginseng is a perennial meaning that it grows in the spring and by October it sheds its leaves preparing the roots for winter (3).
The life cycle is classified as a diploid (2n) life cycle all the way through. There is no alternation of generations where gametophytes and sporophytes (separate plants for reproduction) exist. Instead seeds are released from the parent plant, grow into a sprout and eventually in the 4th year forms flowers and berries which are then released into the wild for seed dispersal (19).
Photo By Eric Burkhart
Used with permission from Hardings Ginseng Farm
In wild Ginseng the stalk of the plant changes every year until the 5th spring. The shoot dies every year in the fall and creates a death scar similar to that of a Pine tree. The older the root the more scarred and wrinkled the root becomes. The first year it grows, the plant produces a solitary bud. The next year the plant grows slowly. The 4th year flowers form and fruit is produced in the fall. The birds eat the fruit with the seeds inside them and release the seeds from their bodies. This spreads the seeds around geographically (19).
By Eric Burkhart
Used with permission from
Hardings Ginseng Farm
This is a picture of the Ginseng life cycle. The plant starts growing from the seeds into a sprout which develops every year until its fifth year when it is finally mature enough to produce berries. The berries fall of the leaves and produce new Ginseng sprouts. The number of prongs tells how old the plant is. By the time it has two prongs it is two years old. When it has three prongs it is three years old. When Ginseng is five years old the roots are fully mature and are usually harvested at this time to use as herbal medicines (11)(12).