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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 and ethnobotanist. 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 2021)
  • FOR 418 Agroforestry: Science, Design and Practice (in even years, upcoming 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.

My students often take advantage of the vast expertise and laboratory facilities available at Penn State to study botanical questions relating to ethnobotany, biology, ecology, phytochemistry, forest-based horticulture, genetics, and conservation. Our work is highly interdisciplinary as a result.

Current Graduate Students

Cathryn Pugh, M.S. Degree Candidate (2019-2022), Forest Resources. ‘Ramp/wild leek (Allium tricoccum) trade, supply chains, and stakeholder perspectives in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region.’ Ecosystem Science and Management.

Cassie Stark, M.S. Degree Candidate (2020-2022), Forest Resources. ‘Ramp/wild leek (Allium tricoccum) habitat and ecology in Pennsylvania.’ Ecosystem Science and Management.

Program News


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

Research and Educational Publications

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)

Educational Publications:

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. 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:

Burkhart, E.P., Nilson, S.E., Pugh, C.V., and Zuiderveen, G.H. 2020 (Submitted). Neither wild nor cultivated: American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) root seller surveys provide insights into in situ husbandry and origins. Submitted to: Economic Botany.

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.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Educational Publications:

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. 2006. Non-timber forest products from Pennsylvania. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) (pdf). The Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture, University Park, PA. 16 p.

Research Publications:

Zuiderveen, G. H., and Burkhart, E. P. 2020 (anticipated submission). Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) trade practices and stakeholder perceptions in the United States: implications for management and conservation.

Zuiderveen, G. H., Burkhart, E. P., and Lambert, J. D. 2020 (anticipated submission). Effects of phenological stage, time-of-day, and forest site conditions on alkaloid content in goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) rhizomes and shoots.

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.

Ramps/Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum)

Educational Publications:

Burkhart, E.P., Pugh, C.V., and Kreye, M. 2020 (anticipated). Non-timber forest products from Pennsylvania. Ramps/Wild leeks (Allium tricoccum). The Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture, University Park, PA.

Research Publications:

Burkhart, E. P., Nilson, S. E., Jordan, R. T., and Lambert, J.L. 2021 (anticipated submission). Seasonal observations of bulb development in ramps (Allium tricoccum Ait.): implications for wild plant stewardship and forest farming.

Invasive Forest Plants

Research Publications:

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.