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updated: 9/28/2012 8:44 AM

Wisconsin ginseng poachers take to the woods as prices soar

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  • American wild gingseng.

    American wild gingseng.

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. -- Money might not grow on trees, but it comes pretty close with wild ginseng.

Police say more people are combing the woods from the upper Mississippi River to Appalachia searching for the increasingly rare plant as prices soar and the economy sputters. Coveted in Asian markets for its medicinal properties, wild ginseng roots are selling for as much as $500 a pound.

Now a new breed of ginseng diggers looking for a quick buck has taken things to a new level, eschewing harvesting permits and ripping up immature ginseng before it can produce seeds, jeopardizing the plant's long-term future.

They're running afoul of landowners too -- a grand jury charged an Ohio man this summer with shooting and killing someone he suspected of stealing ginseng on his land.

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