Collecting Wildflower Seeds
By Valerie Blow
Osoyoos Desert Society
Using native plants in your garden is an excellent way to use less water, reduce garden work, and lessen the impact of non-native plants on the environment. The Desert Centre hand-collects native plant seeds from a variety of native species in our garden and makes packets of seeds available to the public. If you are looking for seeds we don't have on hand, or are interested in collecting seeds yourself, read on for some important tips!
Collecting seeds can sometimes be tricky, and improper collecting can lead to the depletion of a species from a location and can also impact animals that depend on those seeds for food. When you collect your seeds, use the 5Rs below as a guide:
Rules: Rules are there for a reason! Collecting seeds from private land or conservation areas without permission is trespassing and illegal. It is always best to ask permission before collecting from anywhere but your own yard. It is also
not advisable to collect seeds from any rare or endangered species - they are already having a hard enough time as it is.
Review: Always review and double-check your plant identification to make sure you have the correct plant in front of you. Collecting seeds from the wrong plant is not only a waste of valuable (and possibly rare) seed, it is also a waste of your time!
Restraint: No matter how common a flower may seem, be sure to exercise restraint when collecting. It is rarely a good idea to collect more than 5-10% of the seeds of a species from a single location. This means if there are five bunches of Yarrow, and each bunch has five flowers, you should collect
at most 1-2 seed heads' worth of seeds. Ensure someone else hasn't already collected there either - look for clipped stems or trampled grasses.
Respect: Be gentle with natural areas! Respect the ecosystem above all else and evaluate whether it would be best to leave the area alone. Treading through a pristine grassland (or any other ecosystem) for just a few seeds can do serious damage. Always keep to roads and trails.
Remove: After collecting, be sure to brush off all clothing and shoes (and pets) to remove any hitchhiking seeds that should not be transported to other areas. Common offenders include cheatgrass, houndstongue, puncturevine, and burdock.
For best collection results, ensure the seeds are mature before harvesting. They will usually be hard and brown and will shatter easily from the flower or seed head. Many native species also benefit from stratifying several weeks before planting. The internet is an excellent resource to learn about stratification and the best stratifying techniques for different plant families.
For an extensive resource on seed collecting information and techniques, the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery team, though based on Vancouver Island, has an excellent website: