Guidelines for collecting seeds

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Some native plant groups believe you should not collect native plants seeds if they can be found through the many nurseries and individuals who grow their own stock of native species. That’s a good point, however, there seems to be no real harm in collecting so long as certain guidelines for ethical collecting are followed:

  • First obtain permission from the public or private landowner (sometimes permits are required for public property).
  • Never take an entire plant, except to rescue it from imminent destruction by developers.
  • Take care not to trample nearby seedlings and plants while collecting.
  • Don’t collect more than 10 percent of the seeds from any one plant (it must be able to generously reseed itself.)
  • Collect seeds only from plants that are abundant. Don’t collect seeds from endangered and threatened species. You can familiarize yourself with them from your state’s Endangered and Threatened Species list.
  • If you pick wildflowers, dried seed stalks or evergreens for decoration, take only from abundant species. Never take more than 10 percent from any one plant.
  • Don’t pick flowers that need their leaves and stems for storing energy for the next year’s growth, such as daffodils and lilies.
  • Don’t take cuttings from slow-growing plants.

*Top photo: Left – Wild Blue Phlox, Phlox divaricata, (Jerzy Opiola / Wiki; CC); Right – Phlox divaricata seeds. (Steve Hurst / USDA-NRCS; PD)

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