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Research Summaries: Black Cohosh – Virginia

The Roanoke chapter of the Garden Club of America (GCA) with researchers from the Southern Research Station and the botanist for the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests (GW/JNF) have collected data from a site near Natural Bridge on the Glenwood & Pedlar Ranger District for two years. In 2003, the group established two long-term sites to monitor black cohosh population dynamics.

2003 Summary of Virginia Cohosh Experimental Harvest:
In September 2003, approximately 10 GCA members and 2 Forest Service personnel established the sites and collected baseline data from the sites. In that first year, 51 plants were measured. One site was designated as a control in which no harvesting was allowed. The team harvested 33 percent of the second site. Roots were provided to the project management for chemical constituent analysis. The weather was not amenable to extensive field work in 2003 as it rained all day. The team toiled to collect as much data as they did.

2004 Summary of Virginia Cohosh Experimental Harvest:
In August 2004, approximately 10 GCA members and 3 Forest Service personnel revisited the site for a second data collection season. The day was remarkable sunny and pleasant. The season had been dry with less than normal rainfall. Two plots from one site were harvested. 54 plants were harvested. Six roots were collected and returned to the Forest Service research station. After extensive drying time, the roots were delivered to project management for further analysis. In general the plants had passed their peak performance. There were no inflorescences. Many of the plants had already died back. There was some discussion about the possibility that the plants had been hit by blight.

During the discussion on the second year’s field day, it was generally decided that Natural Bridge site was marginal. Because the plant populations are limited in size the site would not attract serious diggers. The group decided that another site would be preferred, possibly to the South and it was agreed to explore that possibility in 2005.

2005 Summary of Virginia Cohosh Experimental Harvest:
In 2005, the MPWG established two new sites in Virginia. The original site, located near natural bridge was discontinued in 2005, as it was felt that volunteer support would be better utilized at a site with more plants (see summary for 2004). Upon consultation with USFS Ranger Districts on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, two sites were chosen: Reddish Knob (northern site) and Mount Rogers (southern area). Prior to the field days, these sites were scoped on several occasions prior to the field days to make sure that they were adequate, accessible and readily available. Plant specimens from each site were also take to the Virginia Tech Herbarium for positive identification. See the 2005 Virginia project proposal for other information.

Reddish Knob: On June 26, seven people convened in Harrisonburg to undertake a two- day field data collection exercise. These included five Forest Service researchers from the Research Work Unit (SRS-4702) based in Blacksburg, including the FS site contact. The MPWG project coordinator from Washington, DC and a graduate student from Tai Sophia Institute rounded out the team. Unfortunately, no GCA members participated in this field event, because the dates were not set earlier enough in the season and a GCA volunteer coordinator had not been identified. The seven person team put in two 14 hour days to collect data on black cohosh. The team worked through a violent thunderstorm that lasted for almost four hours on the second day. The team was able to measure about half of the plots that had been set up. In all, about 1500 plants were measured, in a plot that could have twice that number.

Mount Rogers: On 21 August, the Forest Service site coordinator met a group of more than 20 GCA members in Abingdon, VA for an evening training session, prior to commencing a two day field activity. The next morning, the GCA contingent and five Forest Service people started field activities. These volunteers worked to collect data at two macro-plots, which were separated by a 160 mile distance. Black cohosh was bountiful at both sites. The weather cooperated and both sites were completed.

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Last Updated: 31-Jul-2006