Eric Burkhart, Ph.D.

Eric Burkhart, Ph.D.

  • Associate Teaching Professor, Ecosystem Science and Management Department
  • Program Director, Appalachian Botany and Ethnobotany, Shaver's Creek Environmental Center
3400 Discovery Road
Petersburg, PA 16669

Areas of Expertise

  • Field Botany and Plant Taxonomy, Herbarium Methods
  • Non-timber Forest Products (e.g., Maple Syrup, Medicinal/Culinary Plants and Fungi)
  • Economic Botany and Ethnobotany
  • Plant Husbandry and Horticulture
  • Wild Plant Conservation, Management, and Policy
  • Invasive Plant Ecology, Ethnobotany, and Management
  • Appalachian Forest Plant Biology, Ecology, and Ethnobotany
  • Agroforestry, Forest Farming


  • B.A., Economic Botany, Idaho State University (1999)
  • M.S., Horticulture, Penn State University (2002)
  • PhD., Forest Resources, Penn State University (2011)

I am a professional botanist and ethnobotanist. In my position as Associate Teaching Professor here at Penn State University, I contribute to the following educational areas:

  • Instruction: I teach University level courses on plant identification, biology, ecology, conservation, and management.
  • Research: I am 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 (w/ Joe Harding)(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.

Peer-reviewed Publications

Unpublished (manuscripts currently in final preparation or submitted for review):

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

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

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


Maynard-Bean, E.E., Kaye, M., Wagner, T., and Burkhart, E.P. 2020 (Accepted). Citizen scientists record novel leaf phenology of invasive shrubs in eastern U.S. forests. Biological Invasions.

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. Herbalgram 124 (Nov-Jan): 60-77.

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.

Extension related:

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.


American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) floristic associations in Pennsylvania: Guidance for identifying calcium-rich forest farming sites
Agroforestry Systems, Burkhart, Eric, 2013