Dr. Eric Burkhart

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

Faculty Instructor, Ecosystem Science and Management Department



3400 Discovery Road
Petersburg, PA 16669
Phone: 814-865-3951

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


B.A., Economic Botany, Idaho State University (1999)

M.S., Horticulture, Penn State University (2002)

PhD., Forest Resources, Penn State University (2011)

About Me

I am a botanist and ethnobotanist, mostly focused on the Appalachian region of the United States. Beginning in 2019–2020, I will be involved in ethnobotanical research in Madagascar with colleagues in Anthropology. 

In addition to teaching for Ecosystem Science and Management, I have a research and outreach program that is focused on developing sustainable forest-based stewardship and cropping systems for Appalachian specialty forest products (i.e., non-timber forest products) including American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and ramps (Allium tricoccum). My students and I conduct interdisciplinary research on these products on questions relating to botany, ethnobotany, ecology, phytochemistry, and horticulture.

Courses that I Teach at Penn State

Fall Semester

  • FOR 203 Field Dendrology (w/ Margot Kaye)

Spring Semester

  • FOR 303 Herbaceous Forest Plant Identification, Ecology and Ethnobotany
  • FOR 403 Invasive Forest Plant Identification, Ecology and Management 
  • FOR 418 Agroforestry: Science, Design and Practice (in even years)

About My Lab and Students

Plant Science Graduate Student 2019–20

Pugh, Cathryn. ‘Ramp/wild leek (Allium tricoccum) trade, supply chains, and stakeholder perspectives in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region’ M.S. Thesis (Ecosystem Science and Management). The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

Plant Science Graduate Student 2017–19

Jordan, Teal. ‘Ramp/wild leek (Allium tricoccum) phytochemistry’ M.S. Thesis (Ecosystem Science and Management). The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

Selected Publications

Peer Reviewed Research Papers:

Burkhart, E.P., Zuiderveen, G.H., and Pugh, C.V. Neither wild nor cultivated: wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) trade surveys provide insights into husbandry of an internationally traded non-timber forest product. Manuscript in development for 2019 submission to Economic Botany.

Maynard-Bean, E.E., Kaye, M., Wagner, T., and Burkhart, E.P. Citizen scientists record novel leaf phenology of an emerging invasive functional group. Manuscript submitted to Nature Letters. May 2019.

Maynard-Bean, E.E., Kaye, M., and Burkhart, E.P. Shedding light on invasive shrubs in North American forests: novel leaf traits. Manuscript submitted to Plant Ecology. May 2019.

Zuiderveen, G.H., Burkhart, E.P., Lambert, J.D., and Jacobson, M.G.Influence of post-harvest drying temperatures on alkaloid levels in goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.). Manuscript submitted to Journal of Applied Research on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. February 2019.

Burkhart, E.P. and Zuiderveen, G.H. 2019. Wild goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) root alkaloid content in relation to colony and harvest stage. 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.  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. 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. Agroforestry Systems 76 (2): 437-453.

Educational articles and 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. (Peer-reviewed.) Herbalgram 124 (Nov-Jan): 60-77.

Burkhart, E.P. and Jacobson, M.G.  2017. Opportunities from American ginseng husbandry in Pennsylvania (revised and expanded). 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). 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). The Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture, University Park, PA. 12 p.

Program News


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 and World Report) — October

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

Educational Videos