Want an Easy Way to help our Natural Areas?
Collect and Donate Seed from your own Native Gardens!

Ask to Join the Seed Collection Mailing List to get more updates like this to know what seeds are ready and how to collect them!
Every year The Land Conservancy of McHenry County adds as much native seed as we can to our sites, either making whole new prairies out of nothing or adding more diversity to our preserves. 

Native seed can be expensive, but it's free if you collect it from your own natural areas!

We'll take any native seed and no amount is too little! Please be sure it is the native form and not a cultivated variety. It helps if each species is collected separately and placed in its own paper bag and labelled. Most seeds can be fully dried and stored in a paper bag, but some cannot and we have made notes if any special storage is required. Seeds can be dropped off at our office in Woodstock. If you have questions send us an email. 

I'm getting better at taking photos of the seed, so I hope they are a little clearer and more helpful!

Thank you to everyone who has donated seed to us already this year!

We've included another six species common in native flower plantings and have directions on how to collect these!
Photo from Illinoiswildflowers.info
There are many different kinds of milkweeds, but all form a green pod that splits and ejects round, flat, brown seeds on a white silky parachute. Pictured below are swamp, butterfly, and common milkweed seed pods, respectively.

The seed pods are ready when they split when squeezed, even if they are still fairly green. If you harvest the pods when green, be sure to space them out in a well ventilated place or put a fan on them to ensure they don't mold. When they are thouroughly dry and crispy they can be stored.

When sowing on your own place or donating to TLC, there is no need to separate the seed from the silky parachute.

Cut the whole seed head off at the base when the flowerheads are beginning to dry out and become fluffy.

Every seed is a thin brown cylinder with a brown fluffy thing attached, called a pappus.

Be sure to space these seeds out while air drying, or put a fan on them to be sure they don't mold.

  Photo from IllinoisWildflowers.info
American Bellflower
 Photo from Illinoiswildflowers.info
The seeds of this plant are ready when the stalk becomes brittle, dry, and brown.

These seeds are best collected by snipping the whole seed head off at once. They may have the appearance of one of those plants that you can just run your hand up the stalk and the seed heads fall off into your hand, but this has rarely been my experience.

The seeds are very small and brown, and seem to rattle in the seed pods when ready.

(Like Great Blue Lobelia, Cardinal Flower, and others.)
Lobelias are one of those plants that start blooming on the bottom of the seed head, and progressively blooms up the stalk throughout a few weeks. This flowering method also results in seed pods at the bottom of the stalk that are ready, while unripe seed pods or even flowers are still present near the top of the stalk. You can carefully pick the brown seed sacs off the bottom of the stem while allowing the ones at the top to ripen, or snip the whole thing when the lower sacs are ripe.

The seeds are encased in a round sac, and are very tiny and brown.

Let the stalks air out and dry completely, especially if some parts are still green and filled with moisture.

Photo from Illinoiswildflowers.info
Prairie Dropseed Grass
 Photo from Illinoiswildflowers.info

This is a very common landscaping grass, and one of the highest quality grasses in our natural landscapes.

The seed heads usually emit a buttered popcorn smell when ready to collect. The seeds are distinct round little balls, and when they fall off the head with just a delicate pull of your hand they are ready.

You can either clip the whole seed head or just run your hand up the stalk to collect the seed.

New Jersey Tea
Hey another shrub! Cool!

These seeds are ready when the black masses start to crack and reveal the white undercasing of the seed beneath. Inside each black ball is a smaller white or cream layer, and inside of that is finally the seed.

Collect the seed heads by snipping the whole thing, or running your hand up the stem and pulling firmly on the seed head.

Photo from Illinoiswildflowers.info
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County | mgrycan@conservemc.org|
815-337-9502 | www.ConserveMC.org