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Green Medicine > 2006 Virginia Inventory & Monitoring Project

2006 Medicinal Plant Working Group - Garden Club of America
Partners for Plants Proposal
Native Medicinal Plant Inventory & Monitoring

Title: Black Cohosh, Actaea racemosa (syn. Cimicifuga racemosa)
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests (Virginia)

Purpose: To utilize established partnerships between the Garden Club of America-Partners for Plants (GCA-PfP) and the Plant Conservation Alliance–Medicinal Plant Working Group (PCA-MPWG; See Annex I) to continue to inventory and monitor the effect of harvest on the native medicinal plant, black cohosh, Actaea racemosa. This marks the sixth year of collaborative research efforts. This project is part of a long-term data collection effort that will expand our understanding of the ecological status and sustainability of several species native to the Appalachian Mountain chain. The Appalachians, spanning twelve eastern U.S. States and extending into Canada, harbor the highest biodiversity in the temperate zone. Nearly 100% of black cohosh is wild-harvested.


  • Monitor established sites using field monitoring protocol Collate and assimilate data.
  • Analyze and discuss results with project leaders, other researchers and government agencies.
  • Summarize results for GCA and other partners at the end of the field season.

In the short-term, this information will provide important census and ecological data. In the long-term, it will assist the Forest Service, Natural Products Industry and other land management agencies to better determine the sustainable yields for this important medicinal plant species.

Target species: Black cohosh, Actaea racemosa, is a native Appalachian understory plant that has been traditionally harvested for its root to use as medicine, especially in treating menopausal symptoms. Harvest and trade data are insufficient to accurately determine the effect of the medicinals trade on black cohosh. Conservative industry estimates put black cohosh harvest at approximately 279,000 pounds of dried root/year. Between 1997 and 2001, harvest totaled approximately 1.4 million pounds – this equates to 4 million plants/year of black cohosh. Considering that large coves of black cohosh may consist of 250-500 individuals and cultivation is negligible, the harvest pressure on this species is enormous. With revelations last year that synthetic hormone replacement therapy poses more risks than benefits, black cohosh is at risk of experiencing heavier harvest pressure. We have very little information on the status of this species in the wild and the effect of harvest, making it difficult for land managers to properly manage the species.

Location and date of 2006 study: The study will be conducted at George Washington and Jefferson National Forests (GW/JNF):

  • Reddish Knob, Harrisonburg, VA: 25-27 June
  • Mount Rogers, Wytheville, VA: (cancelled)

In 2006, the Virginia component of the black cohosh study will consist of two sites over four days. In June (25-27), data collection will be undertaken at the northern site in Reddish Knob, outside of Harrisonburg. At this time, we have four Forest Service people committed to collecting data. We still need a GCA site liaison for this site.

The field activity for the second site (Mount Rogers, VA) is scheduled for 20-22 August. Plans are to convene at a hotel in Wytheville, VA for orientation and training. The team would leave early the next morning (around 7:30) for the site. Travel time is estimated at 30 minutes.

Volunteer Needs and Physical Requirements: The site could use twenty or so more volunteers. We expect to meet at the Village Inn on the evening of 25 June for a training and orientation. We will depart for the site early (around 7:15) on the morning of 26 June. As the site is more than an hour from the hotel, early departure is essential

Volunteers should be prepared for moderate off-trail hiking. In addition to the possibility of inclement weather, volunteers may encounter such wonders of nature as poison ivy, snakes and bugs. Be aware and be prepared.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006