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. We also bring seed to our Seed Sharing Day in October, where we teach anyone interested in restoration how to collect seed for their own properties and spend the day collecting seed or giving away an assortment of seed people have donated.

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. 

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!
Compass Plant
Photo from Illinoiswildflowers.info

Cut the seed heads off when it is dry and brown, and the stem is beginning to turn brown under the flower head. The seed head has a series of layers- the middle is sterile brown tubes, the next layer is the flat, wide seed layers, and the outside are the dried bracts that surround the flower.

We don't separate the seeds from the chaff, but instead just gently crush each seed head to break it apart.

Wild Quinine
Cut the whole seed head off at the base when the flowerheads are beginning to dry out or are completely dry.
Each seed head is layered just like compass plant, with five wide flat seeds per head.

We don't separate the seeds from the chaff, but instead just gently crush each seed head to break it apart.

  Photo from IllinoisWildflowers.info
 Photo from Illinoiswildflowers.info
There are a few different species of thimbleweed, but their seeds can all be collected in the same way. The seed head will be a cylinder on top of the stem, and these seeds are ready when the seed pods are easily removed from the stalk by pulling upwards on the seed head. The seedhead should fall apart into a soft cottony mass. If the seedhead is not easily removed from the stalk it is not ripe yet.

The seeds are actually tiny brown ovals within the cottony mass, but there is no need to separate the seeds from the fluff.

Cream Gentian
When ripe, the seedheads will turn golden/tan colored and have a shriveled appearance. Under the dried exterior of the seed head will be a tan oval that splits in half and is filled with the papery wafer shaped seeds.

Cut the whole seed head off and make sure to air it out and let it dry completely, especially if the leaves below the seed head are still green and filled with moisture.

Photo from Illinoiswildflowers.info
Jack in the Pulpit
 Photo from Illinoiswildflowers.info

This plant has a very obvious seed head. It forms a bright red pyramid of "berries" (again, technically a drupe due to one seed per fruit). The fruit will have one round white/yellow seed in the middle. The seeds are ready when they turn red.

As with most fleshy woodland seeds, do not let these seeds fully dry out. Store them in your fridge in a bag of slightly moist sand. Sow them as soon as possible (within a few weeks of collecting). 

I wanted to throw a shrub in here for diversity! And because this is one of my favorites and everyone should have a hazelnut somewhere on their property.

The seeds are encased in a very unique husk with a nut in the middle. The seeds will be ready when the husk is turning brown. It's important to get to the seeds before the squirrels do since these are a choice food source for wildlife. Also, do not store in a garage or barn where mice can get at them, since they will eat them all overnight if they have access to them.

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