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Mammoth ginseng root dug in Allegany County possibly a world record

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Mark MacDonald and a 1.11-pound ginseng root

In early September, somewhere in western Allegany County, Mark MacDonald dug up what he believes is a world record ginseng root.

“It’s definitely a record for Maryland,” MacDonald said Thursday morning via cell phone as he was driving to Friendsville with the 1.11-pound root.

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, MacDonald was on his way to Harding’s Wild Mountain Herbs where Larry Harding had weighed the specimen on a certified scale not long after it was unearthed.

“Maryland Public Television is at Harding’s and they want to see it,” MacDonald said, explaining that the TV crew was already in Garrett County on a ginseng story when it serendipitously heard of his amazing find.

"I've sent the root information into Guinness (World Records)," MacDonald said. "They have no listing for a record wild ginseng root."

A 1-ounce ginseng root is considered to be large, according to MacDonald, who was accompanied by his father, Carey on that digging trip.

“It took us an hour and a half to dig it out,” MacDonald said. “We were real careful with it. It was unbelievable. We just kept digging and digging and there was more root.”

MacDonald, a LaVale resident, only returned to ginseng digging this year. “I went with my pap when I was a kid, but hadn’t done it for a long time.”

MacDonald said the current market price for ginseng is down. “It fluctuates, but is going about $400 for a dried pound. Usually once the wet plant dries it loses two-thirds of its weight, but who knows with this one.”

The root was being kept alive and fresh, stored in a box with moss and dirt, according to MacDonald, who said the above-ground portion of the plant gave no clue as to what was waiting below.

Editor's note: Story updated at 12:38 p.m. 12-17-15

Mike Sawyers is a staff writer and the outdoor editor at Cumberland Times-News. Call/text him at 301-268-0630, email and follow him on Twitter.

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