Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural habitat. Many such plants having been collected for centuries, because of their natural healing properties. Such as the ginseng roots pictured. However with the increase in the production of synthetic drugs, fewer and fewer people now choose to harvest wild plants, for medicinal purposes, although many prescription medicines are still derived from natural plants. One reason being, that over time families moved to more populated areas, and people became more reluctant to work in the fields and forests. Another reason being the scarcity of some plants, due to over-collecting. Finding, collecting, and preparing the plants is time-consuming work. One must be very knowledgeable about the types of plants and herbs they collect, as some plants can be poisonous when not used properly. It is important to collect at the time of the year when the medicinal properties of the plants are at their peak. Roots should be collected either early in the spring, before growth has begun, or late in the fall. Herbs should be collected during the blooming period. Leaves are generally collected before blooming begins. Seeds and fruits should be collected when ripe. Bark should be collected during the dormant season or in early spring. After collecting, the herbs and plants have to be cleaned, thus removing stones, and soil. Some plants and roots should be processed before drying. Roots are generally cut lengthwise or crosswise to hasten drying and to decrease molding. (Ginseng roots are not cut to allow the root to keep its natural shape. ) Fruits, which spoil, should be cut in halves or quarters. Bark can be cut into pieces to speed up their drying process. Seeds should be spread in a thin layer on aluminum or cardboard containers. The drying process is needed, to keep the green color, cut spoilage, and prevent molding, which could damage the medicinal potential of the plants. Two methods are used to dry the plants. The natural method makes use of the sun's heat plus shade and air movement. Such as an open air building, porch, or any shaded area with a dry floor. Artificial drying involves a drying box with racks and the use of an electric heater, taking up less floor space than the natural drying method, and drying the plants more efficiently. Pack and store the dried plants in clean burlap sacks, boxes, or paper sacks. Plants should be stored under sanitary conditions that would prohibit rodent and insect contamination.