American ginseng is a perennial herb. Its leaves occur in a whorl at the top of the single stem, and each leaf is palmately compound, with 3 to 5 leaflets. Small, insignificant greenish-white flowers emerge in May–July on a stalk emerging from the base of the whorl of leaves. A cluster of red berries is produced in middle to late summer or early fall.
Similar species: A related species, dwarf ginseng (P. trifolius), grows in the northeast United States but not in Missouri. Other members of the ginseng family that are native or naturalized include English ivy, wild sarsaparilla, American spikenard, and Hercules' club. None are likely to be confused with American ginseng