The Sustainable Harvest of Wild Populations of Oshá (Ligusticum porteri) in Southern Colorado for the Herbal Products Trade
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It is a challenge to both use and conserve wild-harvested medicinal plants, especially when it appears they may be threatened by harvest pressure, and there is often limited biological information available to inform management decisions. Oshá (Ligusticum porteri) is an important medicinal plant whose roots are harvested in the southwest USA and Mexico as an herbal remedy to treat flu, sore throat, and other illnesses. We studied population structure, root production, and the ability of oshá to recover from harvest in different environmental contexts at two high-elevation southern Colorado sites with a goal of understanding what a sustainable rate of harvest might be. We experimentally harvested roots of mature oshá plants at four different rates. Results indicate that low rates of harvest allow for stable oshá populations over the short term (3–5 year) at our sites. Due to management interest by the USDA Forest Service, we propose a possible sustainable harvest rate of 50% of mature plants every 10 years. Given variability due to weather and other environmental factors, we recommend that future oshá harvest should be planned and adjusted after careful monitoring.
Key WordsEthnobotany Medicinal plant Policy Roots Wild harvest
A very special thank you to Angie Krall, archeologist, at the Rio Grande National Forest; and Gretchen Fitzgerald, forester, for the San Juan National Forest for their help in planning, access, and fieldwork. We are additionally thankful for the individuals who devoted their time and energy to guide and assist us with numerous, many strenuous, field work endeavors, including several from the herbal products industry, including Daniel Gagnon of Herbs Etc., in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Feather Jones of Sedona Tea Blends and Susan Leopold, Director of the conservation organization, United Plant Savers; and botanical and horticultural consultants—Hillary Loring and Maggie Riggs. And finally, I would like to thank Trish Flaster, Executive Director of Botanical Liaisons, LLC, whose leadership and work with the Denver Botanic Garden and volunteers established a protocol for monitoring that we both followed and modified for our current work.
The work for this project was made possible by funding from the American Herbal Products Association and the Rio Grande and San Juan National Forests of the U.S. Forest Service. Students assisted from: Haskell Indian Nation University—Regi Black Elk, Bryn Fragua, and Allyson Prue, funded by the National Institute of Health Bridge and Rise Programs; and University of Kansas students and staff—Rachel Craft, Amy Isenburg, Schuyler Kraus, Jennifer Moody, Natasha Myhal, Erica Staab, Kate Utech, and Julia Yang. Numerous other students and volunteers assisted us with field work throughout the 2012–2017 field seasons and these are listed in our other reports.
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