Medicinal forest plants are worth preserving

April 26, 2008|By BOB KESSLER

On Thursday, May 8, Eric Burkhart, plant science program director at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center, is the featured speaker at the Cumberland Woodland Owners' Association meeting.

Burkhart will talk about how to establish, manage and steward goldenseal and several popular edible or medicinal mushrooms on private forestlands. The meeting is open to the public. Attendees do not have to be members of CWOA and there is no cost to attend.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at the new location of the Cumberland County Extension Office at 310 Allen Road in Carlisle. To get to the new office, take Interstate 81 north to exit 44 (the exit for Plainfield), turn right toward Pa. 11. Office is about 1/4 mile on the right, across from Sheetz in the Cumberland County Administrative Annex Building.

Although timber typically is considered the principal forest resource in Pennsylvania, the state's forests also harbor many other economically valuable resources. These can provide landowners with additional income as well as an interesting diversion.


Pennsylvania has a rich assemblage of native medicinal forest plants. These include economically important species such as American ginseng and goldenseal and wild mushrooms such as morels, chanterelles and shiitake.

These species have been abundant throughout the state, but continued harvesting and other pressures have reduced their numbers.

Little concerted action has been taken to preserve them. Cultivation or encouragement of goldenseal and other flora on forestlands is one way to ease the burden on wild plant resources.

Eric Burkhart is an expert on mushrooms and other wild plants that are edible. At Shaver's Creek Environmental Center (, a Penn State facility, he provides training and teaches courses on agroforestry, woody and herbaceous plant identification, and nonnative invasive flora.

He also conducts research on native plants of economic and conservation importance.

The Cumberland Woodland Owners Association (CWOA) is an organization of forestland owners and others interested in forestry issues in south central Pennsylvania. The mission of the association is to provide information, education and an exchange of ideas to its members and others about the methods and benefits of proper forest management.

For more information about the meeting or the Cumberland Woodland Owners Association, call Fred Peabody at 717-776-3565 or e-mail him at

Bob Kessler specializes in consumer horticulture and energy for Penn State University. He can be reached weekdays at 717-263-9226 or by e-mail at

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