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

Email: epb6@psu.edu
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, horticulturalist, 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 2025)
  • FOR 418 Agroforestry: Science, Design and Practice (in even years, upcoming 2024)

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 22 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 culturally and economically important eastern North American forest plants: American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), ramps/wild leek (Allium tricoccum), ghost-pipe (Monotropa uniflora), and prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum spp). 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. Habitat modeling and comparisons in ramp species (Allium burdickii, A. tricoccum) in Northern and North Central Appalachia. Ecosystem Science and Management.

Anez, Savannah. Ph.D. Candidate (Biology). 2022-2025. Indian-pipe (Monotropa uniflora) uses, phytochemistry, and chemical ecology. Biology.

Kirk Lawson, Ph.D. Degree Candidate (Forest Resources). 2021–2025. Incorporating ethnobotanically important native flora into agroforestry applications in the Appalachian region and the U.S. Virgin Islands: riparian and forest farming crops using Zanthoxylum and Allium species. Ecosystem Science and Management.

Wrobleski, Amy. Ph.D. Candidate (Ecology). 2020-2024. Food sovereignty and foraged fungi. Ecology.

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.

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

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

Program News

Follow on Instagram for the latest news


What’s that smell? A second type of wild ramp documented in Pa. has a stronger odor
Brian Whipkey, USA Today Network — August

Second species of ramp, or wild leek, documented in Pennsylvania
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News — July

Ramping up for spring
Jordan Bush, Lancaster County Magazine — April

How to forest farm wild leeks for culinary use
Deborah Sergeant, Lancaster Farming — April

Little stinkers: it’s time to hunt — and celebrate — the ramps of Appalachia
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — April


Ramped up: Higher demand for wild leeks has foragers overeager, threatens plant
Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State News — November

The secret, lucrative world of Pennsylvania’s wild ginseng diggers
Jason Nark, The Philadelphia Inquirer — September

The taming of Pennsylvania’s most lucrative wild plant
Colin Deppen, Spotlight PA — September

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


Stark, C., Nilson, S.E., and Burkhart, E.P. 2023. Two ramp taxa, Allium tricoccum Ait. and A. burdickii (Hanes) A.G. Jones, differ in abiotic habitat characteristics and floristic associates in Pennsylvania (pdf). Natural Areas Journal 43(3): 185-195.

Nilson, S.E., Burkhart, E.P., Jordan, R.T., and Lambert, J.L. 2023. Seasonal observations of bulb development in ramps (Allium tricoccum Ait.): implications for wild plant stewardship and forest farming (pdf). Agroforestry Systems 97: 97-107.

Burkhart, E.P., Pugh, C., and Norman, C. 2023. Non-timber forest products from Pennsylvania: Ramps (Allium tricoccum). The Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture, University Park, PA.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.