Asian J Agric & Biol. 2019;7(3):334-343.

The ecology and saponins of Vietnamese ginseng – Panax vietnamensis var. fuscidiscus in North Vietnam

Pham Quang Tuyen1, Tran Thi Kim Huong2, Trinh Ngoc Bon1, Phung Dinh Trung1, Bui Thanh Tan1, Nguyen Thi Hoai Anh1, Nguyen Thanh Son1, Hoang Thanh Son1, Trieu Thai Hung1, Ninh Viet Khuong1,  Nguyen Thi Thu Phuong1, Nguyen Van Tuan1, Nguyen Quang Hung1, Do Thi Ha3, Pham Tien Dung1, Nong Xuan Cu1, Tran Van Do1*

1 Silviculture Research Institute, Vietnamese Academy of Forest Sciences, Hanoi, Vietnam

2 Department of Science and Technology of Lai Chau, Tan Phong, Lai Chau City, Lai Chau Province, Vietnam,

3 National Institute of Medicinal Materials, 3B Quang Trung, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam

Abstract

Species of the genus Panax L. known as ginsengs are perennial forest herbs. The medical values of ginsengs are well known. Panax vietnamensis var. fuscidiscus was found in Laichau province, North Vietnam in 2003 and is known as Laichau ginseng. Understanding the ecology and saponin of high economically valuable Laichau ginseng is becoming important for sustainable development and management. Plots of 400 m2 (20 m × 20 m) were established to survey for Laichau ginseng’s ecological characteristics. In addition, its root samples from natural forests and garden of local people were collected for saponin analysis and anatomy. The results indicated that Laichau ginseng naturally distributes in evergreen broadleaved forests in elevation zones up to 2,100 m above sea level. It can grow in both old-growth forests and anthropogenic-disturbed forests.  However, the total crown area of tree (stem with a diameter at breast height ≥5 cm) layer must be high, ranging from 3.2 to 8.6 times of the land area. In addition, the cover of herb layer is also important, which must be ≥44% land area. The saponin content of Laichau ginseng in natural forest (23.85%) is statistically significantly higher than that of other ginsengs (3÷22.29%) naturally distributing in Vietnam. While saponin content of Laichau ginseng (18.48%) grown in the garden of local people is statistically significantly lower than that collected from natural forests. It is concluded that Laichau ginseng could be a potentially perennial forest herb for poverty reduction. However, growing this herb may be restricted to very narrow areas in high elevational evergreen broadleaved forests with a high cover rate of both tree and herb layers.

Keywords: Laichau, Panax L., Saponin, Sustainable management, Vietnamese ginseng