In 1999, the graduate students in the Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology Program of the University of Maryland investigated the status of four medicinal plants native to the United States, with a view toward assessing whether they should be proposed for listing under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Their study led them to develop the following proposal to list Ligusticum porteri in CITES Appendix II. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not proposed these species for Appendix II listing under CITES.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service does not officially endorse the opinions or ideas expressed herein, or guarantee the validity of the information provided.

Draft Proposal to list Ligusticum porteri in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

submitted by the University of Maryland Program in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology
to the
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Scientific Authority
(Dec. 1999)


The Problem Solving Class of the Program in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology at the University of Maryland was asked to conduct an investigation into the biology of and impacts of trade on four medicinal plants, and to assess whether any of them warranted inclusion into Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). We investigated Serenoa repens (saw palmetto), Ulmus rubra (slippery elm), Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh) and Ligusticum porteri (osha) by surveying available literature and contacting local and regional botanists, herbal medicine specialists and herbal companies. We concluded that L. porteri warranted CITES Appendix II listing because of regional and state protection measures, impacts of harvesting for an increasing medicinal demand, and lack of success in cultivating the plant.

Pending continued interest in submitting this proposal to the Conference of the Parties (COP), additional information gathered in the next two years can be integrated into this report.  Since the next meeting of the COP is slated for 2002, this report should be used as a working document. At this time, botanists and others working in the field of plant conservation, herbal medicine, and natural resource management vary in their opinions on population status, population trends, and the need for conservation of L. porteri.  While protection measures are in place in some states and regions, this is not consistent throughout the range of this species.  Increased monitoring of populations will be essential to determining its status in all states where it grows.  In terms of trade, L. porteri, called osha in the herbal industry, is increasing in popularity.  The medicinal uses for this species are many, but it is most commonly used to treat colds and respiratory infections.  At this time all plants are collected from wild populations, since attempts to cultivate it have not been successful.  In sum, the combination of increased demand, the lack of cultivation protocols, and the uncertainty of population status in its native range supports its listing in CITES Appendix II.

There are some practical issues that may render listing Ligusticum porteri in CITES Appendix II difficult.  For example, demand for osha is rising, but the herbal industry does not distinguish among several Ligusticum species.  Since many collectors and herbal companies do not differentiate species and it is difficult to distinguish them even when using taxonomic keys, listing only L. porteri may be problematic.  Additionally, currently there is a dispute regarding L. porteri identification in regions of the United States that have passed regulations on its collection. There is a possibility that the moratorium on collecting L. porteri was based on misinformation.  Since the regional moratorium was the primary basis for our recommendation for conservation action, the outcome of this dispute will be significant to future decisions regarding its listing in CITES Appendix II.


1. Taxonomy

1.1 Class
1.2 Order
1.3 Family
1.4 Scientific Name
1.5 Scientific Synonyms
1.6 Common Names

2. Biological Parameters

2.1 Distribution
2.2 Habitat Availability
2.3 Population Status

Table 1 Species Status by State.

2.4 Population Trends
2.5 Geographic Trends
2.6 Role of the Species in its Ecosystems
2.7 Threats

3. Utilization and Trade

3.1 National Utilization
3.2 Legal International Trade
3.3 Illegal Trade
3.4 Actual or Potential Trade Impacts
3.5 Artificial Propagation

4. Conservation and management

4.1 Legal Status
4.2 Species Management
4.3 Control Measures

5. Information on Similar Species

6. Other Comments

7. Additional Remarks

8. References

8.1 Journal Articles and Books
8.2 Personal Communication

9. Appendices

9.1 Appendix I: Distribution Map of Ligusticum porteri
9.2 Appendix II: Survey Questions for Regional and State Botanists
9.3 Appendix III: Distribution Map of Lomatium dissectum
9.4 Appendix IV: Distribution Map of Ligusticum filicinum
9.5 Appendix V: Class Profile 

1. Taxonomy

1.1 Class Magnoliopsida (dicotyledons)
1.2 Order Apiales
1.3 Family Apiaceae
1.4 Scientific Name L. porteri var. brevilobum Coult. & Rose; L. porteri var. porteri Coult. & Rose
1.5 Scientific Synonyms Ligusticum madrensis (Mexico)

1.6 Common Names

The most frequently used common name for Ligusticum porteri (Apiaceae) is osha, especially in the context of its medicinal properties. Other common names include Porter’s licoriceroot, Mountain lovage, Colorado cough root, Lovage, Porter’s lovage, Porter’s wild lovage, and Southern Ligusticum (Arnberger, 1968; Plants for a Future, 1999). In trade, it is most often referred to as osha or Ligusticum, names that may also be used for other species in the genus that are collected and used for medicinal purposes. This plant was used by Native Americans in the United States who referred to it as bear medicine (Moerman,1998). In Mexico, L. porteri is referred to as chuchupaste, chuchupa, or chuchupate-names which also refer to the plant’s pharmaceutical preparation.

2. Biological Parameters

Ligusticum porteri is a perennial herb in the carrot family (Apiaceae, previously Umbelliferae) that grows in moist fertile ground in upland meadows and ravines throughout its range (Plants for a Future, 1999). L. porteri grows 50 to 100 cm tall. The plant has elliptic or lance-shaped leaf segments that are 5 to 40 mm in width with tapered basal leaves that are 15 to 30 cm long. L. porteri is distinguished by its tap root, which has fibrous root hairs and a distinctive odor due to resins produced by the plant (Klein, pers. comm.)  Inflorescences are white with five petals per flower arranged on flat-topped umbels. Flowers are small, approximately 2 to 5 mm in diameter, and produce oblong-shaped ribbed fruits that are 5 to 8 mm in length. (Plants for a Future, 1999). Seeds have no mechanism for wind dispersal and probably drop close to the parent plant (Inouye, pers. comm.). L. porteri inhabits late to climax successional high elevation meadow communities, characterized by tall forbs and deep soils.

2.1 Distribution

Ligusticum porteri is native to many non-coastal western states in the United States. Populations of L. porteri are found throughout much of the Rocky Mountains from northern Wyoming to Chihuahua, Mexico (see Appendix I). The species is found throughout much of Colorado and Utah, in parts of Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, and may be present in Montana. While no state agency has precise or comprehensive figures on the number or density of L. porteri populations within their borders, a number of experts have estimates of the distribution and range of the species.

Populations grow along streams, on open slopes, and in aspen and mixed conifer/deciduous forests (Cronquist et al., 1997). More specifically, L. porteri can be found in association with aspen (Populus sp.), oak (Quercus spp.), sagebrush (Artemesia spp.), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), spruce (Picea sp.), fir (Abies sp.), and sometimes in open forb-grass communities at elevation ranges between 2050 to 3171 meters (Welsh, 1993). L. porteri grows in aspen (Populus sp.) forests, where it is increasingly collected for medicinal uses.

Most Colorado populations of L. porteri are found in Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) forests or mountain big sagebrush/buckbrush (Artemesia spp.) meadows on rocky soils. At higher elevations, L. porteri may be present in open areas in mixed-conifer, aspen, and pine forest communities. The species may also grow along canyon bottoms at lower elevations (Godec, pers. comm.).

L. porteri grows throughout Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. In Utah, the species has been idenfied in several counties including Beaver, Cache, Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Garlfield, Grand, Iron, Juab, Kane, Millard, Piute, Sand Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Summit, Tooele, Uintah, Utah, Wasatch, Washington, and Wayne (Welsh, 1993). Utah populations are primarily associated with coniferous or aspen woods and in open-forb communities at high elevations. In Colorado, L. porteri is found throughout the montane zone. It grows mainly in Colorado’s aspen (Populus sp.) forest habitat, but is also associated with subalpine meadows and spruce-fir forests and throughout wet zones (Lyon, pers. comm.). There is also a report of a L. porteri population in the northern foothills of the Uinta Range in Sweetwater County (Fertig, pers. comm.). In New Mexico, L. porteri grows throughout mountainous regions of the state in aspen (Populus sp.) forests (Chauvin, pers. comm.).

Populations of L. porteri are less abundant in Wyoming, Arizona, Idaho, and Nevada. In southern Wyoming, the species is found in Albany and Carbon counties in the Sierrra Madre and Medicine Bow Mountains (Cronquist et al., 1997). Older reports from northwest Wyoming are based on specimens now attributed to Ligusticum canbyi, a close relative (Fertig, pers. comm.). In Arizona, L. porteri populations vary from infrequent to common, depending on the locale. L. porteri is found on mountains and plateaus of Apache, Coconino, Graham, Cochise, and possibly Pima and Yavapai Counties reaching 6,500 to 11,500 feet in elevation. In Idaho, L. porteri has been identified in Twin Falls County, which is in the southeastern region (Cronquist et al., 1997). L. porteri has also been collected from the Snake Range and Jarbidge Mountains in northeast Nevada (Charlet, 1995).

The presence of L. porteri in Montana is uncertain. L. porteri was identified in Carbon County (Dorn, 1984), but this may have been based on misidentified herbarium specimens (Heidl, pers. comm.). The Montana Natural Heritage Division has initiated a study to verify the identification and to evaluate the extent of L. porteri in Montana.

2.2 Habitat Availability

Suitable habitat for L. porteri is fairly abundant in Arizona and Utah (Welsh 1993). Habitat for L. porteri is also currently widely available in Colorado although logging, grazing, and recreational vehicle traffic threaten to reduce what is available (see section 2.7, Threats). The Forest Service has identified tall forb communities as highest priority habitat for Region Four (Prendusi, pers. comm.).

Suitable habitat for L. porteri is more limited in other states. Habitat in Nevada is limited to the extreme eastern area of the state in the Snake Range and Jarbidge Mountains. Approximately 90 percent of the area is federally owned, and a portion is permanently protected as Jarbidge Wilderness. Other portions of federal land in Arizona are managed for grazing. Such activity may be harmful to tall forb communities (Prendusi, pers. comm.). There is no specific information on habitat availability in the remaining states in L. porteri’s range.

2.3 Population Status

Ligusticum porteri is listed as “rare” on the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants (Walter and Gillett, 1998). This designation indicates that the species has a small world population that is not yet endangered or vulnerable, but is at risk of becoming so. Rare species usually have a restricted range or habitat type, or are thinly scattered over a more extensive range (Walter and Gillett, 1998).

While most state agencies do not currently monitor this species, conservation organizations and herbal medicine specialists are concerned about the status of wild populations of L. porteri as well as several other species in the genus Ligusticum. United Plant Savers (UpS) is a conservation organization that focuses its efforts on populations of medicinal plants collected from the wild. UpS publishes a list of "at risk" species that details those species that deserve conservation attention due to human impact (UpS Education, 1999). TRAFFIC North America, part of World Wildlife Fund, recently classified L. porteri populations as declining over the past ten years (Robbins, 1999).

While natural resource agencies have not focused vegetation surveys on Ligusticum porteri, regional and state botanists questioned for this investigation (see Appendix II) provided some general conclusions about the current status of populations within the species’ range. The opinions of botanists varied from state to state, and some have recommended increased monitoring of populations. In most cases, implied or current threatened status for L. porteri is due to grazing, commercial and residential development, ATV recreational activities, logging and collection for medicinal use (see section 2.7, Threats).

For example, populations of L. porteri in Arizona, Colorado and Utah are currently stable. This designation indicates that populations are uncommon but not rare, and usually widespread throughout the state (Natural Heritage Database, 1996). Also, Colorado populations appear large and stable according to Natural Heritage staff in Colorado (Lyons, pers. comm.).

L. porteri is not considered rare in Utah and populations have been identified in every county (Atwood, pers. comm). According to other state natural resources staff in Utah, the species has been considered relatively common (Franklin, pers. comm.; Sivinski, pers. comm.). The species is not listed on the Endangered Species Act or on the Sensitive Species Program of Utah (Atwood, pers. comm). One source, however, indicates that although this plant seems to be widespread, it may be locally rare throughout its range in Utah (Atwood, pers. comm.). The Utah Natural Heritage Program’s Endemic and Rare Plants of Utah includes L. porteri in the Taxonomic Problems category, since it is difficult to distinguish from other Ligusticum species.

The debate over the status of L. porteri in Utah seems to stem from a book published by Stanley Welsh in 1975. His Endangered, Threatened, Extinct, Endemic, and Rare or Restricted Utah Vascular Plants lists L. porteri as endemic, rare, local and possibly threatened (Welsh, 1975). When L. porteri was listed in a 1978 Smithsonian and World Wildlife Fund article entitled Endangered and Threatened Plants of the US (Ayensu, 1978), Welsh’s article was the only reference. In 1986, IUCN published Plants in Danger, which led to the listing of L. porteri on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. Welsh’s 1975 article is the citation for the species’ listing. However, in Welsh’s 1985 follow-up article, Utah's Rare Plants Revisited, L. porteri was completely omitted from the article with no further explanation.

Populations in New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada, Idaho, and possibly Montana may be in decline, or at least relatively small and locally restricted. In the spring of 1999, the Montana legislature passed a moratorium on collection of any Ligusticum species on state-owned lands (Shelly, pers. comm.). As a result of Montana’s moratorium on collection permits of L. porteri, Region 1 of the United States Forest Service (Montana, Northern South Dakota, North Dakota, and Northern Idaho) subsequently issued a Regional policy that recommends no issuance of collecting permits on USFS lands (Shelly, pers. comm). Since part of Idaho is in USFS Region 1 and the rest of the state is in Region 4, the moratorium on collection of L. porteri for Region 1 was also adopted by Region 4 (Southern Idaho, Western Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah) (Prendusi, pers. comm.). This was primarily initiated to prevent the collection of Echinacea purperea, but all species listed on the Region 1 moratorium, including L. porteri, may not be collected. As mentioned previously, verification of the original identification of L. porteri in Montana-the identification that led to the moratoriums on collection-is currently in dispute. Verification should be available at the conclusion of a study currently being conducted by the Montana Natural Heritage Division.

Despite the moratorium in Forest Service Region 4, there is evidence that L. porteri may not be threatened in Wyoming. The species does not appear in Fertig’s Wyoming Rare Plant Field Guide (Fertig, 1995), the most recent authoritative publication on the state’s rare plants. In Wyoming, L. porteri is currently known from approximately 25 extant populations and 10 historical sites and is ranked S3 (Vulnerable) by the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database in 1999.  This designation indicates that populations are either rare and uncommon, found in a restricted range, or have other factors that make it vulnerable to extirpation (Natural Heritage, 1996).

L. porteri is not listed by the Northern Nevada Native Plant Society nor the Nevada Natural Heritage Program as either rare or sensitive. With regard to potential decline in L. porteri populations, the New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council Meeting on March 28, 1998 identified L. porteri as a plant that may not be at present biologically rare but possibly in need of management due to collection pressures. They indirectly refer to United Plant Savers as a reference. They are currently in the process of putting together rare plant technical reports for management of the species identified (NMRPTCM, 1999).

Table 1: Species Status by State

State Status* Protection
Arizona Stable None
Colorado Stable None
Idaho Locally common Forest Service moratorium
Montana Identification in review State moratorium Forest Service moratorium
Nevada Stable Forest Service moratorium
New Mexico Potential decline None
Utah Common Forest Service moratorium
Wyoming Vulnerable Forest Service moratorium

*Notations are based on interviews with U.S. Forest Service employees, state Department of Natural Resources employees and/or herbalists in each state, not on actual population estimates.

2.4 Population Trends

Populations of Ligusticum porteri appear to be relatively stable throughout much of its range but are pressured by development, grazing, and collecting. No precise trends are apparent at this time. Experts in the state of Colorado see no evidence of L. porteri decline, although threats from over-collecting may develop in the future (Lyon, pers. comm.). Populations in Wyoming are also thought to be stable at present. Population trends for L. porteri remain unknown in Arizona (Godec, pers. comm.). In Utah, there have been no studies on population status or trends (Atwood, pers. comm.). Teresa Prendusi, the botanist for USFS Region 4, asserts that much of the Mexican population of L. porteri may have been depleted, thus increasing harvest pressures in the United States. Refer to section 2.3 Population Status for more information on population trends of Ligusticum porteri.

2.5 Geographic Trends

Additional research should be done to determine patterns in species migration and changes in tall forb community distribution in the southern Rocky Mountains. If these data have not been published, then a historical range study should be conducted.

2.6 Role of the Species in its Ecosystems

Due to a lack of research on L. porteri, there is very little understanding of the role this species plays in ecosystems in its range. Nevertheless, this species does appear to play a role in maintaining the process of succession in the tall forb community. Because of its height, L. porteri likely outcompetes sagebrush (Artemesia spp.) and prevent sagebrush invasions in that habitat. The plant also probably provides cover for small animals, and maintains soil moisture. Flowers are attractive to a variety of insect pollinators, particularly flies (Inouye, pers. comm.).

2.7 Threats

Overall threats to L. porteri populations include the impacts of grazing, habitat loss, logging, and the collection of the plant for medicinal purposes.

Grazing may threaten many natural communities that support L. porteri. Tall forb communities have been identified by Forest Service Region 4 (southern Idaho, western Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah) as their highest habitat conservation priority, because this community is threatened with destruction from sheep grazing (Prendusi, pers. comm.). Additionally, grazing threatens easily accessible and small populations of plants. Management of suitable habitat in Arizona currently allows for some grazing. However, since there is sufficient habitat available, this species is not considered threatened in this area (Schwartz, pers. comm.).

Residential and commercial development may also result in the loss of local populations and prime habitat for L. porteri (Cech, pers. comm.; Prendusi, pers. comm.). Habitat loss due to development is a major threat, especially in Wyoming and Colorado. However, since a large percentage of available habitat in Colorado is in the National Forests, the rate of development in large portions of L. porteri habitat is slower than in privately-owned lands (Lyon, pers. comm.).

Another primary threat to L. porteri populations, and the impetus for listing this species in CITES Appendix II, is the demand for this plant for medicinal purposes. There is concern on the part of numerous regional experts that L. porteri is being overharvested in its native habitat (Blakely, 1998; Felger et al., 1999). Harvesting is of concern primarily because the entire plant is harvested when collected. Herbalists that regularly prescribe L. porteri estimate that roots are over ten years old when harvested. This indicates a long-term loss of wild rootstock in areas where collection occurs (Blakely, 1998; Klein, in prep. 1999).

Currently, there is no propagation of the species for commercial trade because cultivation is challenging and not cost efficient (Herb Seed Index, 1999). Therefore, the combination of increased demand and the fact that L. porteri is not being cultivated, but gathered in total from slow-growing native populations, exacerbates threats to the species. Over time, it is projected that trade impacts will result in unsustainable harvesting and threaten existing genetic resources. Additionally, since populations are relatively small, local populations of this species can be wiped out in a matter of days by one or more collectors in a given area (Cech, pers. comm.). Finally, in federally-owned and state-owned forests, requests for permits for medicinal plant collections are rapidly increasing (Robbins, 1999).

In 1999, the Nevada Natural Heritage Program decided that the rise in plant collection for medicinal purposes must be addressed due to potential impact on native populations. Additionally, although the state of New Mexico does not regulate collection of L. porteri, the demand for this plant is increasing, especially in the aspen (Populus sp.) forests of New Mexico. If the situation does not improve, the species may disappear from sites that are easily accessible by collectors.

In the more accessible habitats in Utah, pressure is increasing from collectors, who are harvesting the plants for medicinal purposes (Sivinski, pers. comm.; UpS, 1999). Harvesting for medicinal use is strong in Utah’s aspen (Populus sp.) forests; however, such pressures do not affect all of the species' habitats. At this time, collection occurs primarily in the areas that are most accessible (Sivinski, pers. comm.). Populations in Arizona are also affected by collection, but the impact of such activities have not been documented to date.

Logging is reported to take place in some areas of suitable habitat in Arizona (Godec, pers. comm.). Current management of suitable habitat in Arizona also allows for some logging (Schwartz, pers. comm.). In addition to habitat loss, logging, overharvesting and grazing, experts in Wyoming raise one other potential threat to L. porteri: recreation, particularly all-terrain-vehicle traffic (Fertig, pers. comm.).

3. Utilization and Trade

3.1 National Utilization

Native Americans have used L. porteri for centuries as a deterrent and remedy for many ailments, particularly respiratory infections (Appelt, 1985). L. porteri has since entered the medical repertoire of Hispanic peoples in the United States and Mexico. Chuchupate, the Spanish common name also refers to a complex of L. porteri and Myroxylon balsamum, is a major component of many folk medicine kits in the Southwest United States and northern Mexico (Linares et al., 1987).

L. porteri is recommended as a remedy for head colds, irritative coughs, initial stages of acute pharyngitis, acute early stage tonsillitis, bronchorrhea, acute coughs, acute influenza with coughing and dyspnea, acute bronchial pneumonia with dyspnea, fever with dry, hot interrupted diaphoresis, and leukocytosis (Moore, 1997). L. porteri is very effective as a tincture of fresh root 1:2, or dry root 1:5, in 70% alcohol. Twenty to sixty drops can be taken sublingually, up to five times per day. As a cold infusion, two to six ounces are mixed with water and taken as needed (Moore, 1995).

Isolated compounds from L. porteri yield various medicinal properties. For example, several furanocoumarins have been isolated from other Ligusticum species (Moore, 1977). These compounds may have properties which, when applied to the skin, prevent viral infections and inhibit tumor growth (Soine, 1964). Phthalides, such as butylidenephthalide (BdPh) and ligustilide, have also been isolated from Ligusticum species (Gijbels et al., 1981). Experiments with BdPh have demonstrated that it can inhibit promoters of smooth muscle activity (Ko, 1980).

Few contraindications have been established for L. porteri’s medicinal usage. L. porteri may be present in the breast milk of lactating mothers (Moore, 1995). No assessment of the effects of L. porteri on newborns or nursing infants has been made.

The market for botanical medicines in the United States has risen from $1.6 billion to $4 billion in annual retail sales between 1994 and 1998 (Breevort, 1998). Based on discussions with experts throughout public land management agencies in western states, wild populations of L. porteri have been in decline over the past ten years and demand has increased over the same period of time. Trade has been characterized as medium to large (Robbins, 1999). Researchers from the United Plant Savers and TRAFFIC International show that demand for L. porteri is increasing (Robbins, 1999). At this time, L. porteri is sold in the form of ground roots, whole roots, tinctures, and seeds.

According to Michael McGuffin, President of the American Herbal Products Association, there is a small demand for L. porteri nationwide, but the species is in highest demand in the southwestern United States. According to industry representatives, L. porteri is gaining in popularity (Cech, pers. comm.). There is some evidence that the demand for and export of this plant to Mexico is also rising because the local plant populations in Mexico are in decline (Cech, pers. comm).

Requests for catalogues from approximately 70 herbal companies that are members of the American Herbal Product Association (AHPA) resulted in responses from 36. Thirteen out of 36 catalogues consulted included L. porteri in their product lists. Therefore, one-third of the companies investigated sold L. porteri. A majority of companies in this survey did not carry L. porteri, however three of those companies confirmed that a prototype was being prepared. A leading U.S. herbal company reported that their annual usage of whole I root is 500 dry pounds, but it is not listed on their top selling list of the top 28 and top 100 bestsellers.

Echinacea (Echinacea purperea) and Ginseng (Panax genseng) are two top selling herbs that demonstrate similar properties to L. porteri. Echinacea, for which sales grew at a rate of 151 percent in 1998 (Breevort, 1998), is one of the most heavily demanded herbs in the market. Echinacea is similar to L. porteri in that it is taken to prevent colds and flu and is a general immune system enhancement product. With the cold/flu/immune system category of herbal products growing at a rate of 9 percent in 1998 (Breevort, 1998), the demand for L. porteri as an Echinacea analog has the potential to rapidly increase. Ginseng was listed in CITES Appendix II due to the demise of native populations in the United States; L. porteri is similar in that the entire root is harvested and cultivation is difficult. L. porteri populations face similar threats of extirpation.

3.2 Legal International Trade

Currently, there is only anecdotal evidence for export of L. porteri from the United States into Mexico (Cech, pers. comm.; Felger et al. 1999). Native populations of L. porteri in Mexico are being diminished due to over-collection and increased demand (Felger et al. 1999). Due to declining populations in some regions of Mexico that are partly the result of exporting roots to Japan, United States, and Germany (Felger et al. 1999), the potential for increased demand to impact United States native populations is high.

The Tarahumara, a native people in the Apachian-Mandrean region of Mexico, have formed a local business to harvest and process L. porteri. To determine the volume of United States/Mexico international trade, phytocertificates for L. porteri will be tracked and analyzed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Scientific Authority and Management.
Although there is anecdotal evidence of L. porteri from the United States being traded to Germany, senior staff in Germany’s Office of Scientific Authority state that they have never heard of the L. porteri species and that they do not monitor importation of it (Schippman, pers. comm.).

3.3 Illegal Trade

Information regarding illegal trade is not currently available. The analysis of phytocertificates that will be conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will generate legal and illegal trade information.

3.4 Actual or Potential Trade Impacts

As a result of the long recovery time of L. porteri and increases in demand, practitioners are urging the use of L. porteri analogs (Mckeon, 1999) until commercial cultivation programs become established. In the event that this species is listed in CITES Appendix II, both the use of analogs and cultivation will likely result. As mentioned previously, many populations of this species are locally restricted and rare, so if regulations are passed that limit harvesting, alternative plant material will have to come from cultivated sources or analogs. If regulations are not implemented, then the impending increase in demand will result in population decline. This is especially true since collectors remove the entire root of the plant when harvesting and this kills the plant and eliminates the potential for offspring.

In some cases, Natural Heritage biologists and herbalists are hesitant to share geographic and biological information about L. porteri when doing so will lead to further collection of plants in the wild (Heidel, pers. comm.; Jones, pers. comm.). Increased publicity that might occur if the proposed species is listed in CITES Appendix II could cause collection to increase. This suggests that listing the species may increase threats on populations due to collecting, but at this time, the benefits of listing the species (described above) probably outweigh the costs.

3.5 Artificial Propagation

To date, there is no artificial propagation of L. porteri in the United States; currently all roots are collected from the wild. Although cultivation is not possible at this time, seeds of L. porteri are available through some wholesale herbal seed companies. Experimentation in L. porteri cultivation has been ongoing for several years. There are individuals currently working out propagation protocols. However, they have not been successful to date, and no the information on propagation is currently available (Flaster, pers. comm.). Therefore, all levels of harvesting L. porteri will impact populations in native communities. This is exacerbated by the fact that collectors usually remove the entire root of the plant.

4. Conservation and Management

4.1 Legal Status

4.1.1 National

Except for Montana, none of the western states with L. porteri populations prohibit collection of the plants on state lands. While a regional moratorium is in place for L. porteri, enforcement of the regulations are not very strong. In Wyoming, for example, enforcement is negligible. Likewise, in Colorado the Forest Service and Bureau of Lands and Mines require permits for collecting, but again, restrictions are not enforced. Utah currently has no conservation measures for L. porteri, other than support for the regional moratorium.

Due to high demand in the southwestern United States and large amounts of L. porteri being collected, a federal moratorium on collecting L. porteri was passed by the United States Forest Service Regions 1 and 4. However, specific legal mandates have not been described.

4.1.2 International

Refer to Section 6, Other comments.

4.2 Species Management

4.2.1 Population Monitoring

State natural resource agencies are not currently monitoring populations of L. porteri. However, due to increased harvesting for medicinal use, there may be impetus for monitoring in the future. The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation organization, recently hired a botanist to investigate the conservation status of Ligusticum porteri, including impacts from medicinal plant trade. The results of this study should be available in January 2000 (Martinez, pers. comm.).

4.2.2 Habitat Conservation

Nature preserves, national parks, and national forests offer plant and animal species protection from collection, habitat loss, and other disturbances. Some L. porteri populations do occur within protected areas, such as Ramsey Canyon Preserve (owned by The Nature Conservancy) and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, and Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming.
Other populations occur in areas of limited use such as wilderness areas within National Forests (Godec, pers. comm.). In Nevada, L. porteri is found on federally owned land and the Forest Service has excluded grazing and timber extraction from Jarbidge Wilderness. Likewise, habitat in Colorado is protected in wilderness areas and in Wilderness Study Areas and Research Natural Areas. There are also numerous conservation easements on private lands that probably contain L. porteri.

4.2.3 Management Measures

There are no comprehensive management programs in place to manage populations of L. porteri or to ensure a sustainable harvest of populations for medicinal use. L. porteri is not formally protected under western states’ native plant or endangered species laws. Collection of any plant does require permission from the landowner (federal, state, private, etc.) in most states. However, it is unlikely that suitable habitat is patrolled, frequently enough to deter unpermitted collection (Godec, pers. comm.).

4.3 Control Measures

4.3.1 International Trade

If the proposed species is listed in CITES Appendix II, then the regulations imposed by CITES will be the only legal regulation of international trade for this species.

4.3.2 Domestic Measures

While no state agencies currently conduct educational programs concerning the conservation of Ligusticum porteri, several individuals and non-governmental organizations have initiated conservation programs for the species. United Plant Savers, a non-profit education organization dedicated to preserving native medicinal plants, has created a suite of programs to address conservation of medicinal plants. By involving a number of respected herbalists and biologists, UpS has developed an “At Risk” list of medicinal plants that are in need of conservation attention. Their efforts are focused on increasing awareness of these plants and techniques for “ethical wildcrafting.” Wildcrafting is the process by which herbalists and other plant collectors harvest plants from the wild. For many species, certain harvesting techniques will kill or severely damage the plant. Other techniques will help the plant to regenerate the parts that were harvested. UpS has published several recent articles on wildcrafting L. porteri, and has stimulated several letters to the editor about the plant in their newsletter (UpS Newsletter, 1999). Other outreach initiatives that UpS is undertaking include regional and national educational symposia and workshops. Botanists and other experts regard UpS highly, and their efforts seem to be increasing knowledge of medicinal plant conservation (UpS Education, 1999).

Other non-profit organizations are also concerned with increasing public knowledge and concern for wildcrafted herbs, but most (such as Plants for a Future) have not focused on L. porteri.
Many herbalists conduct their own educational efforts. Feather Jones, of the Rocky Mountain Herbal Institute, lectures locally and regionally about useful medicinal plants and ethical wildcrafting. Jones does not yet lecture about L. porteri, because she does not want to popularize it before cultivation techniques improve (Jones, pers. comm.).

5. Information on Similar Species

Several Ligusticum species, in addition to L. porteri, are collected for medicinal purposes and are collectively known as L. porteri by herbalists. In regions such as the Rocky Mountains, herbalists use any of the Ligusticum species and most do not distinguish between species when harvesting from the wild. Furthermore, depending upon the requirements set by companies that buy L. porteri from wildcrafters, the species of L. porteri that is collected and sold may not be documented (Klein, pers. comm.). This may make it difficult to regulate osha on an individual species basis, especially because it is relatively difficult to distinguish between the different Ligusticum species.

According to reputable botanists and herbalists, L. porteri is distinguished by its tap root, which has fibrous root hairs and a distinctive odor due to resins produced by the plant (Klein, pers. comm.). Many of the genera in the Parsley family (Apiaceae) have medicinal properties, including Ligusticum, Lomatium, Osmorhiza, Angelica, and Heracleum.

Both the genera Lomatium and Ligusticum are often referred to as lovage and species in both genera may be used interchangeably as they contain similar medicinal properties. The leaves of Lomatium dissectum are similar to those of Ligusticum species; however, the flowers are chocolate-brown, whereas L. porteri flowers are white (Klein, pers. comm.). Lomatium dissectum root is also fragrant, but the odor is distinguishable from L. porteri. Its range overlaps with L. porteri; however, it grows between 1,280 and 3,170 feet elevation and L. porteri grows between 2,250 and 3,170 feet (see Appendix III).

Within the genus Ligusticum, L. filicinum, L. canbyi, and L. tenuifolium are similar species to L. porteri that may be used interchangeably as osha in the herbal market. Species may be identified according to the structure and number of “rays” in the compound umbel of the flower (Cronquist et al., 1997; Dorn, 1984).

L. filicinum grows throughout Idaho, Montana, Oregon Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado between elevations of 1,910 and 3,400 feet (see Appendix IV). L. tenuifolium grows between 2,420 and 3,420 feet in the same range as L. filicinum (see Appendix IV). L. porteri can be distinguished from L. filicinum and L. tenuifolium because L. porteri has broader leaflets, but mature fruit is needed for positive identification in most cases (Plants for the Future Database, 1999). Also, L. tenuifolium individuals are 11 to 64 cm tall, have a mildly aromatic tap root, and a solitary or terminal umbel (Cronquist et al., 1997). L. filicinum is glabrous and has a stout, caudex-like root. Stems are only single, although there is sometimes more than one cluster of basal leaves.

Species range of Ligusticum canbyi (Canby’s wild lovage) spans British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. It has been suggested that L. canbyi and L. porteri should be considered as varieties of a single species. However, their geographic ranges are different and their fruits are distinct (Cronquist et al., 1997).

6. Other Comments

In November 1999, both the Mexican and German Offices of Scientific Authority were contacted to solicit their comments regarding international trade in and demand for L. porteri. Comments have not been sufficiently obtained at this time, but follow-up is recommended.
There is anecdotal evidence that the United States exports osha to Germany. However, senior staff in Germany’s Office of Scientific Authority state that they have never heard of L. porteri species and that importation of the species is not monitored (Schippman, pers. comm.). Future communications with the German Office of Scientific Authority is recommended.
Additionally, the herbal industry in Mexico uses osha in a product called Copangel and some plant material may be exported over the United States/Mexico border. The Mexican Office of Scientific Authority was contacted repeatedly to obtain information regarding international trade and demand. This dialogue should be continued in the future, as it is not clear whether the species does not occur or is not monitored in Mexico, or if there has been a miscommunication during the interviews conducted in November 1999.

7. Additional Remarks

L. porteri is proposed without exclusion of parts or derivatives such as the finished pharmaceutical products, to allow regulation of end-product medicinals if necessary.

No directive medical recommendations are made herein.

8. References

8.1 Journal Articles and Books

Appelt, G. D. 1985. Pharmacological aspects of selected herbs employed in Hispanic folk medicine in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, USA: I. L. porteri (L. porteri) and Matricaria chamomilla (manzanilla). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 13:511-55.

Ayensu, E. S. 1978. Journal of endangered and threatened plants of the United States. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Blakely, T. 1998. Conserving our herbal resources. Conference Proceedings: HerbFest 1998. Published online:

Breevort, P. 1998. The booming U.S. botanical market: A new overview. Herbal Gram 44: 33-46.

Charlet, D. 1995. Plant Species in the Jarbidge Mountains, Nevada (includes Copper Mtns, Fox Mtns, & Mary’s River Range). University of Nevada, Reno. Biological Resources Research Center. Available:

Cronquist, A., N. H. Holmgren, and P. K. Holmgren. 1997. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the intermountain West USA, Vol. 3 part A. New York Botanical Garden, New York.

Dorn, R. D. 1984. Vascular Plants of Montana. Mountain West Publishing, Cheyenne.

Felger, R. S., G. P. Nabhan, and R. Bye. 1999. Apachian/Mandrean Region of SouthWestern North America: Mexico and U.S.A. Published online:

Fertig, W. 1995. Wyoming rare plant field guide. Wyoming Rare Plant Technical Committee.

Gijbels, M .J., J. J. Scheffer, and A. Boerheim-Svendsen. 1981. Analysis of phtalides from Umbelliferae by combined liquid-solid and gas liquid chromatography. Chromatographia 14: 452-454.

Herb Research Foundation Website.

Herb Seed Index Fact Sheet 1999. L. porteri (L. porteri). Published online:

IUCN. 1986. Plants in danger: Comprising red data sheets on 250 selected plants threatened on a world scale, from information assembled through the IUCN Threatened Plants Committee.

Klein, R. 1999. In preparation. Wise Old Plants. Unpublished manuscript.

Ko, W. C. 1980. A newly discovered antispasmodic: butylidenephthalide. Japanese Journal of Pharmacology 30: 85-91.

Linares, M. E., F. Penafiel, and R. Bye. 1987. Selección de Plantas Medicinales Mexicanas, LIMUSA, Mexico.

Lucas, G. L and H. Synge. 1978. The IUCN Plant Red Data Book. IUCN. Morges, Switzerland.

Mckeon, K. Making wise choices for L. porteris’ future. United Plant Savers Newsletter, Summer 1999.

Moore, M. 1977. Los Remedios de la Gente: A compilation of traditional New Mexican herbal medicines and their uses. Herbs, Etc., Santa Fe.

Moore, M. 1995. Herbal Materia Medica, Fifth Edition: A brief outline of major medicinal plants, giving preferred media, strengths, and common dosage ranges. Published online:

Moore, M. 1997. Specific indications for herbs in general use, Third Edition: Over 400 herbs, formulas and essential oils, with their specific clinical indications in Botanical Medicine. Published online:

Moore, M. n.d. Herbal-Medical Contraindications. Published online:

Natural Heritage Program. 1996. Natural Heritage Element Conservation Priority Ranking Definitions.

NMRPTCM New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Committee Meeting. Published online:

Northern Nevada Native Plant Society. Rare Plant Committee Meeting. 6 April 1999, Las Vegas. Available:

Plants for a Future Database. 1999. Published online:

Robbins, C. Medicine from U.S. wildlands: An assessment of native plant species harvested in the United States for medicinal use and trade and evaluation of the conservation and management implications. TRAFFIC North America, The Nature Conservancy, July 1999.

Soine, T. O. 1964. Naturally occurring coumarins and related physiological activities. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 53: 213-264.

United Plant Savers. 1999. UpS Newsletter, Summer 1999.

United Plant Savers. 1999. Educational Presentation Material. United Plant Savers.

United Plant Savers Website.

University of California Berkeley Phyogeographic Query, BONAP/MIP Botanical Checklist of North America Browser. Published online:

Walter, K. S. and H. J. Gillett. [eds]. 1998. 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. Compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Published online:

Welsh, S. L., N. E. Atwood, and J. L.Reveal. 1975. Endangered, threatened, extinct, endemic, and rare or restricted Utah vascular plants. The Great Basin Naturalist 35(4): 327-376.

Welsh, S. L. 1993. A Utah Flora. Brigham Young University (2nd ed., rev.). US Print, Provo, Utah.

Wyoming Natural Diversity Database. Last updated 10/15/99. Published online:

8.2 Personal Communication
Anglin, Guy. Telephone Interview October 1999.
Atwood, Dwayne. Brigham Young University. Telephone Interview October 1999.
Cech, Richo. Horizon Herbs. Email October 1999.
Duke, Jim. Email October 1999.
Fertig, Walter. Telephone Interview October 1999.
Flaster, Trish. Email October 1999.
Franklin, Benjamin. Telephone Interview October 1999.
Gladstar, Rosemary. United Plant Savers. Telephone Interview October 1999.
Godec, Dan. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Email October 1999.
Heidl, Bonnie. Botanist. Montana Natural Heritage Program. Email November 1999.
Inouye, David. Email December 1999.
Jones, Feather. Rocky Mountain Herbal Coalition. Email October1999.
Klein, Robyn. Sweetgrass School of Herbalism. Email October and November 1999.
Lugbill, Ann. Email October 1999.
Lyon, Peggy. Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Email October 1999.
Martinez, Martha. Email October 1999.
Martinez, Martha. Telephone Interview December 1999.
McKeown, Kathy. Email October 1999.
McGuffin, Michael. American Herbal Products Association. Telephone Interview October 1999.
Prendusi, Theresa. Regional Botanist, U.S. Forest Service Region 4. Telephone Interview October 1999.
Schwartz, Sabra. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Email October 1999.
Shelly, Steve. Regional Botanist, U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Telephone Interview and Email November 1999.
Shippman, Uwe. German Scientific Authority. Email November 1999.
Sivinski, Bob. New Mexico State Forestry. Telephone Interview and Email October 1999.
Storm, Rodney. American Herbal Products Association. Telephone Interview November 1999.
Suggs, Robin. Email October 1999.
Werning, Stacy. Email October 1999.
Widrlechner, Mark. Iowa State University. Email October 1999.

9. Appendices

9.1 Appendix I: Distribution Map of Ligusticum porteri

Map credit: Michael Moore's Southwest School of Botanical Medicine

9.2  Appendix II: Survey Questions for Regional and State Botanists

1. What is the distribution of the species in your state?  What habitat types do you associate it with?

2. How available is habitat for L. porteri?  Are there any pressures on suitable habitat?

3. How would you characterize the status of the populations in your state?

4. What has been happening to the populations over the past 10 years?  Longer?  Are there any threats that it is facing?

5. Are there any geographic trends with Ligusticum?  Any differences between populations?

6. What is the role of L. porteri in the ecosystem?

7. What threats are facing L. porteri in the wild?

8. What impacts on the population are occurring because of trade/collection?  What impacts could occur?

9. Does your state have any restrictions on collection of L. porteri?  What legal measures are in place for the plant?

10. Are there any programs to conserve habitat for L. porteri?  Do you monitor the plant in your protected areas?

11. Are any management measures in place for osha?  How should ethical wildcrafting take place?

12. Can the plant be cultivated?  Is anyone cultivating it?

9.3 Appendix III: Distribution Map of Lomatium dissectum  

Map credit: Michael Moore's Southwest School of Botanical Medicine

9.4 Appendix IV: Distribution Map of Ligusticum filicinum

Map credit: Michael Moore's Southwest School of Botanical Medicine

9.5  Appendix V: Class Profile

Natalie Bailey
Natalie graduated Magna cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Rhodes College in 1996 with a B.S. in Biology. She has experience in international conservation communications and fundraising with the Jane Goodall Institute and The Nature Conservancy’s Latin American and Caribbean Division. Most recently, Natalie served as coordinator for the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots National College Summit, an environmental and humanitarian program that brought together young adults and college students from across North America.

Kimberly Dumentat Benson
Kimberly holds a B.S. from the University of Maryland in marine biology and has completed extensive coursework in oceanography, engineering, and the physical sciences. She has been active in marine related fields through employment and volunteer activities for over eight years. Her most recent experience includes work for the Maryland Sea Grant College Program and the US Department of State, Office of Marine Conservation. Kimberly has also recently been awarded a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship.

Marina Cracco
Marina received a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Zoology at the University of La República, Uruguay. She has worked as a research assistant in an Organization of American States funded Ecotourism Policy Study at the University of Idaho, and as a consultant for the Hornocker Wildlife Institute. Marina has extensive experience in the translation of technical material from English to Spanish for UI faculty and for The National Association for Interpretation. She was a founding member and a volunteer in Asociación Vida Marina, an NGO focused on marine issues and environmental education in South America. Her interests include wildlife and general conservation issues in Latin America.

Gary Dodge
Gary graduated from UC San Diego in 1988 with a degree in Cognitive Science. He has since worked as a conservationist and as a biologist for the US Park Service in California and Alaska, US Fish and Wildlife Service in Minnesota, Peace Corps in Honduras, and most recently with Conservation International in Washington, DC. His research interests include avian conservation, habitat fragmentation, and the establishment and management of protected areas in Central and South America.

Laurie Duker
Laurie Duker has a B.A. in Sociology from Pomona College in California, and an M.B.A. from Yale University. She has worked as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill on international issues and as director of a non-profit organization. Laurie has research experience in whooping crane behavior, wetlands vegetation and wetland pollination systems.

Jose-Luis Izursa
Jose-Luis holds a M.Sc. degree in Higher Education from the Amazonic University of Pando, Bolivia and received his BS in biology, with a concentration in Ecology, from the University of San Simon, Bolivia. He worked for nine years in sustainable development and conservation issues at NGOs in his native country. For two years he has directed a Research Center for the preservation of the Amazon. His areas of interest include working with “campesinos” and local cultures for the conservation and sustainable use of their resources, environmental education and conservation of tropical forests of South America.

Kelly McConnell
Kelly attended Northeast Missouri State University, where she earned a B.A. in Biology and English and graduated magna cum laude.  Kelly’s research experience in Midwestern prairie systems and at the Archbold Biological Station in central Florida included rare and endemic plant conservation and native habitat restoration using prescribed fire.  She is currently writing preserve management proposals for the Washington, DC/Maryland Nature Conservancy Field Office.  Kelly is also working on a community supported agriculture project with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the DC Capital Area Food Bank that provides a market for local organic produce to urban residents in the DC metro area.

Sarah McCourt
Sarah received a B.A. in Public Communications from the American University in Washington, DC. In the years before joining the CONS program, she worked in the field of media relations and public communications. During this time, she worked as Press Secretary for the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental political action committee, Deputy Press Secretary for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein from California, and Communications Director for the President’s Council on Sustainable Development and the Natural Resources and Environment office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Her interests include conservation of coastal marine ecosystems with a focus on exotic invasive species.

Net Meredith
Net holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan in addition to 80 credits of post-bachelors coursework from Colorado State University in Ecology and Wildlife Biology. Her primary interest is sustainable development in agricultural communities. She spent last summer working on TNC's Carpenter Ranch, a working hay and cattle ranch in northwest Colorado. She has worked as a research assistant for both the Colorado Natural Heritage Program and an environmental engineering firm.

Elizabeth O'Neill
Elizabeth received a B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University in 1993. Since her graduation, Elizabeth spent two years working as an Environmental Scientist with an environmental engineering firm and two years as a Research Associate with the Global Environmental Issues group of ICF Incorporated, an environmental policy consulting firm. Elizabeth has also assisted with ecological field research on birds and insects in New York, monkeys in Kenya, and raptors and macaws in Honduras. Most recently, Elizabeth acted as a field correspondent for a rapid biological assessment of the Pastaza River in Ecuador and Peru conducted by Conservation International.

Karin Sypura
Karin holds a B.S. in Biology from Luther College. Karin currently works for The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on fundraising for an initiative targeting invasive plant species. Karin has worked for the Global Environment Facility at UNDP on capacity development issues, as a Fisheries Extension Agent in the People's Republic of the Congo (where she developed a working knowledge of French), and for the National Marine Fisheries Service performing salmon surveys.