Ginseng named state herb

Yep, that’s a thing now, officially


B.C. Kowalski/City Pages

A worker holds up a ginseng root from Hsu’s Ginseng. Ginseng officially became the state herb (oh yeah, and now there’s officially a state herb).

Hot off all the attention from the first-ever Wisconsin Ginseng Festival held in Wausau this September, lawmakers named ginseng the official state herb. Gov. Scott Walker on Nov. 30 signed the bill, authored by State Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) and State Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield).

Wisconsin is a world hot spot for growing the medicinal root, especially Marathon County, where the Fromm Brothers a century ago first developed a system for commercially growing the plant. Because of soil and climate conditions, ginseng grown in Central Wisconsin is highly valued, especially as an export to Asia.

Work is underway to plan the second Ginseng Festival. September’s festival gathered thousands to downtown Wausau and to sites throughout the county. Visitors came from across the U.S. as well as from China and other countries.

Wisconsin never had an official state herb—the law created the classification along with naming ginseng. Naming an “Official State…” whatever happens roughly every five years or so. Wisconsin has about 30 official state things. Here a partial list:

  • State Animal: Badger (OK, that’s put to good use)
  • State Fossil: Trilobite (evidently people used to respect scientists)
  • State Dog: American Water Spaniel (we do have a lot of waterways)
  • State Bird: Robin (yep)
  • State Flower: Wood Violet (nice choice)
  • State Fish: Muskellunge (obviously)
  • State Fruit: Cranberry (not a lot of options, right?)
  • State Beverage: Milk (we guessed it might be beer)
  • State Pastry: Kringle (if you don’t know, you haven’t lived)
  • State Dance: Polka (well duh)
  • State Symbol of Peace: Mourning Dove (a designation created in 1971, which also resulted in removing the bird off the list of game species. In 2003, it became legal again to shoot our state symbol of peace. The season runs September through November. The DNR publishes some delicious-sounding dove recipes on its website).