"Hurley was charged on June 28 in Swain County with possessing more than 500 ginseng roots he had illegally dug," Warren writes. "Court records show that Hurley had filled a backpack with the roots and attempted to hide it behind a guardrail beside a hiking trail. National park staff replanted the recovered viable roots but estimated that at best, 50 percent of the replanted roots are likely to survive," said Jill Westmoreland Rose, acting U.S. attorney for western North Carolina.
"The wild roots of American ginseng are a highly-prized tonic, particularly in Asian markets," Warren writes. "According to the park service, the American ginseng species is under severe pressure from poachers in the Smokies and may not be sustainable if it continues to be harvested illegally. Fresh ginseng can bring up to $200 per pound on the black market. Ginseng was recently placed on the North Carolina watch list for plants in peril because of exploitation. Each year law enforcement rangers seize between 500 and 1,000 illegally poached ginseng roots, according to authorities." (Read more)