At-risk plants

The United Plant Savers (UpS) is known for having developed a list of medicinal plants at risk for over-harvest. Though the list has received some criticism because it is not science-based, UpS is recognized for its development by the herbal community, the herbal products trade, regulatory agencies and other conservation organizations. Monitoring at-risk medicinal plants continues to be an important part of UpS’s work and mission.

Echinacea angustifolia, one of the species at risk.

Recognizing that this list should be updated and wishing to make it more objective, UpS initiated conversations with Kelly Kindscher (ethnobotanist and head of the botany side of our program), who previously worked on a draft scoring tool that can be used for ranking at-risk species. Scores have been created for many species. Though some subjectivity remains in the scoring tool, it offers a strong basis for our knowledge of the status of medicinal plants in the wild. The project of fine-tuning the scoring tool and updating the UpS At-Risk List was funded by a grant from UpS. The project involved:

*Review of the overall scoring system.
*Working with people who are knowledgeable about key species and who can provide information that can be used to improve the scoring system.
*Collection of field data for key species.
*Development of a mathematics-based or statistical analysis for reviewing scores.
*Development of more information for use on the UpS website so UpS members and others can contribute information to the ranking of plants.
*Facilitation of ongoing discussion among people from many fields who have experience working with these plants, so that we will understand which medicinal plants truly are at risk.


Castle L.M., Leopold S., Craft R., Kindscher K. 2014. Ranking tool created for medicinal plants at risk of being overharvested in the wild. Ethnobiology Letters 5, 77-88. [PDF]