To accommodate construction, Shaver's Creek Environmental Center will be closed Tuesday, May 28, through Thursday, May 30.

Dr. Eric Burkhart

Eric Burkhart

Program Director
Appalachian Botany and Ethnobotany
Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center

Associate Teaching Professor
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences

Phone: 814-865-3951


B.A., Economic Botany, Idaho State University (1999)
M.S., Horticulture, Penn State (2002)
Ph.D., Forest Resources, Penn State (2011)

Areas of Expertise

  • Field botany, plant taxonomy and systematics, herbarium methods
  • Non-timber forest products (e.g., maple syrup, medicinal/culinary plants, and fungi)
  • Economic botany and ethnobotany
  • Forest biology, ecology, and stewardship
  • Plant husbandry and horticulture
  • Wild plant conservation, management, and policy
  • Invasive plant ecology, ethnobotany, and management
  • Appalachian forest plant biology, ecology, and ethnobotany
  • Agroforestry and agroecology

About Me

I am a professional botanist, ethnobotanist, and agroforester. In my position as associate teaching professor here at Penn State, I contribute to the following educational areas:

  • Instruction: I teach university-level courses on plant identification, biology, ecology, conservation, and management in the Ecosystem Science and Management Department.
  • Research: I am principal investigator (PI), co-PI, or research partner for botany and ethnobotany projects involving plant ecology, non-timber forest products, and forest product enterprise development.
  • Extension/Outreach: I lead workshops and field days for landowner and agency audiences, often in collaboration with partners.

Courses that I Teach at Penn State

Fall Semester

  • FOR 203: Field Dendrology (every fall)

Spring Semester

  • FOR 303: Herbaceous Forest Plant Identification, Ecology and Ethnobotany (every spring)
  • FOR 403: Invasive Forest Plant Identification, Ecology and Management (in odd years, upcoming 2023)
  • FOR 418: Agroforestry: Science, Design and Practice (in even years, offered 2022)

My Research Program and Graduate Students

I maintain a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary botany and ethnobotany research program focused on wild plant conservation, husbandry, and horticulture. For the past 20 years, I have worked on topics that assist with forest-based stewardship and agroforestry cropping of Appalachian specialty forest products or non-timber forest products (NTFPs).

My students and I continue to conduct research on questions relating to Appalachian Forest plant botany, ethnobotany, ecology, phytochemistry, horticulture, agroforestry, and invasive forest plants. Our collective research to date has focused on the following three culturally and economically important eastern North American forest plants: American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and ramps/wild leek (Allium tricoccum). I am also interested in non-native, introduced (“invasive”) forest plants, and conduct research and teaching on topics relating to their introduction, impact, and spread in eastern North American deciduous forests.

Graduate Students Advised and Co-advised

Ezra Houston, M.S. Degree Candidate (Forest Resources). 2022–2024. Ecosystem Science and Management.

Kirk Lawson, Ph.D. Degree Candidate (Forest Resources). 2021–2025. Ecosystem Science and Management.

Cathryn Pugh, M.S. Degree (Forest Resources). 2019–2022. ‘Ramp/leek “culture” in Northern Appalachia: a study of attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge surrounding a non-timber forest product.’ M.S. Student, Ecosystem Science and Management.

Cassie Stark, M.S. Degree (Forest Resources). 2020–2022. ‘Habitat and flora associated with two ramp/leek species (Allium tricoccum, A. burdickii) in Pennsylvania.’ Ecosystem Science and Management

Zuiderveen, Grady, Ph.D. Degree (Forest Resources). 2015–2019. ‘Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) chemistry, ecology and stakeholder perspective for “conservation through cultivation.”‘ Ecosystem Science and Management.

Maynard, Erynn, Ph.D. Degree (Ecology). 2014–2019. ‘Shedding light on invasive shrubs in eastern deciduous forests of North America.’ Ecosystem Science and Management.

Program News

Follow on Instagram for the latest news


Growing Impact: Vanishing Tree
Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment — July

Ethnobotanist gets grant to improve conservation of Pa. medicinal, edible plant
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News — May

SCEC Program Director Dr. Burkhart included in American Ginseng: Local Knowledge, Global Roots Exhibition
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage — January


Shaver’s Creek Graduate Assistant Cassie Stark is awarded 2nd place for her poster at 2021 Virtual PA Botany Symposium
Pennsylvania Botany — November

$747K MTSU-led ginseng research alliance funding features major USDA grant
Randy Weiler, MTSU News – October

Getting to the Root of Ginseng Farming’s Impact on Native Plant Populations
Lindsay Campbell, Modern Farmer — August

Researchers help track the growth of ginseng forest farming in Pennsylvania
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News — August

Know (and tame) your knotweed
Meg McGuire, Delaware Currents — June

If you can find them, garlicky ramps are a fleeting taste of spring
Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — April

It’s ramp season, here’s what you need to know
Brian Whipkey, Daily American — April

Leeks are more than food — they’re culture
Stacey Gross, Kane Republican — April

Uniform drying time for goldenseal to enhance medicinal qualities of forest herb
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News — March

Emerging Research on Ramps: A Forest Plant With Growing Commercial Appeal
Penn State Extension — February


Penn State botanists get state grant to study ginseng in Pennsylvania
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News — December

In Appalachia, a Plan to Save Wild Ginseng
Emily Cataneo, Undark — November

Ecology Institute announces grant recipients
Erica Smithwick, Penn State News — July

2020 AHPA awards recognize excellence in the herbal products industry
Eric Burkhart, with his colleagues (the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition), earns Herbal Insight Award — April

Ramps (Allium tricoccum)
Daryln Brewer Hoffstot, Pittsburgh Quarterly — Spring

Demand for ginseng is creating a ‘wild west’ in Appalachia
National Geographic — January


Forest farms could create market for ginseng, other herbs
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News — November

Hunting Ginseng
Daryln Brewer Hoffstot, Pittsburgh Quarterly — October

Penn State Beaver biology professor studying wild ramps in Pennsylvania
Kristen Doerschner, Penn State News — July

Plant Science graduate student Teal Jordan wins best oral presentation at the Society for Economic Botany Conference

Ramps: an important forest resource and emerging forest “crop”
Eric Burkhart, Cat Pugh, Sarah Nilson, Center for Private Forests — February


Operation Root Cause: Diggers, dealers, and the case for wild ginseng
Terri Edwards — November

Researchers to study ramps’ market, flavor profile, vulnerability to pest
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News — March

Supplies of valuable ginseng root dwindling
Julia Dewitt, All Things Considered, National Public Radio — January


Researchers investigating status of goldenseal in Pennsylvania
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News — March


Saving ‘sang’: New label aims to conserve wild ginseng, spur more domestic use of pricy plant
Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press (U.S. News & World Report) — October

Plant scientist works with landowners, law enforcement to protect ginseng
Hilary Appelman, Penn State News — February


Educational Publications:

Norman, C., Burkhart, E., Schmidt, K., and Zimmerman, E. 2021. The Identification of Mesophytic Cove Sites in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture, University Park, PA.

Chittum, H.K., Burkhart, E.P., Munsell, J.F., and Kruger, S.D. 2019. Investing in forests and communities: a pathway to sustainable supply of forest farmed herbs (pdf). Herbalgram 124 (Nov-Jan): 60–77.

Burkhart, E.P. and Jacobson, M.G.  2017. Opportunities from American ginseng husbandry in Pennsylvania (revised and expanded) (pdf). The Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture, University Park, PA. 16 p.

Burkhart, E.P. and Jacobson, M.G. 2006. Non-timber forest products from Pennsylvania. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) (pdf). The Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture, University Park, PA. 16 p.

Burkhart, E.P.  and Jacobson, M.G. 2004. Non-timber forest products from Pennsylvania.  American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) (pdf). The Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture, University Park, PA. 12 p.

Research Publications:

Nilson, S.E., Burkhart, E.P., Jordan, R.T., and Lambert, J.L. Seasonal observations of bulb development in ramps (Allium tricoccum Ait.): implications for wild plant stewardship and forest farming. Manuscript submitted June 2022 to Agroforestry Systems.

Stark, C. Nilson, S.E., and Burkhart, E.P. Two ramp taxa, Allium tricoccum Ait. and A. burdickii (Hanes, A.G. Jones), differ in abiotic habitat characteristics and floristic associates in Pennsylvania. Manuscript submitted July 2022 to Natural Areas Journal.

Jordan, R.T., Lambert, J.L. and Burkhart, E.P. Allicin and total phenolic content in ramps (Allium tricoccum Ait.) in relation to phenology, location, and morphology in Pennsylvania. Manuscript to be submitted July 2022 to Food Chemistry.

Burkhart, E.P., Nilson, S.E., Pugh, C.V., and Zuiderveen, G.H. 2021. Neither wild nor cultivated: American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) seller surveys provide insights into in situ planting and trade (pdf). Economic Botany 75(2): 126–143.

Liu, H., Burkhart, E.P., Chen, V.Y-J., and Wei, X. 2021. Promotion of in situ forest farmed American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) as a sustainable use strategy: opportunities and challenges (pdf). Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9:652103

Zuiderveen, G.H., Burkhart, E.P., and Lambert, J.D. 2021. Benzylisoquinoline alkaloid content in goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) is influenced by phenological stage, reproductive status, and time-of-day (pdf). Phytochemistry Letters 42: 61–67.

Zuiderveen, G.H., Burkhart, E.P., and Lambert, J.D. 2021. Influence of post-harvest drying temperatures on alkaloid levels in goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) (pdf). 2021. HortScience 56 (2): 242–243.

Maynard-Bean, E.E., Kaye, M., Wagner, T., and Burkhart, E.P. 2020. Citizen scientists record novel leaf phenology of invasive shrubs in eastern U.S. forests (pdf). Biological Invasions 22: 3325–3337.

Burkhart, E.P. and Zuiderveen, G.H. 2019. Wild goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) root alkaloid content in relation to colony and harvest stage (pdf). Journal of Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants 25 (2): 128–140.

Burkhart, E.P. 2013. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) floristic associations in Pennsylvania: guidance for identifying calcium-rich forest farming sites (pdf)Agroforestry Systems 87 (5): 1157–1172.

Burkhart, E.P., Jacobson, M.G. and Finley, J. 2012. Stakeholder perspective and experience with wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) conservation efforts in Pennsylvania, U.S.A.: limitations to a CITES driven, top-down regulatory approach (pdf). Biodiversity and Conservation 21 (14): 3657–3679.

Burkhart, E.P. and Jacobson, M.G. 2009. Transitioning from wild collection to forest cultivation of indigenous medicinal forest plants in eastern North America is constrained by lack of profitability (pdf). Agroforestry Systems 76 (2): 437–453.