Collecting & Cleaning Native Seeds

Posted & filed under Native Plant & Seed Swaps, Propagation.

This section of the Toolkit is new and will be expanded to include more seeds collection tips and recommendations for seeds cleaning.

Collecting Native Plant Seeds

Planting native plants from seeds is the cheapest and simplest way to get a good variety of native plants in your landscape. Some say that the plants you grow from seed are healthier than plants you buy from a nursery. And, there’s that added bonus of watching a seed sprout – we feel that not much compares in satisfaction! Collecting seed is simple, but varies from plant to plant. For a quick tutorial on collecting, watch the below video that highlights Native Seed Collection & Cleaning Strategies.

You will need paper bags (a separate one for each species collected), permanent markers, small clippers, and a keen eye. Paper bags are preferable to plastic as we need the seeds to breathe and stay as dry as possible. Plastic bags can hold moisture and your seeds can mold. You will need to label the bag with the botanic name of the plant, the common name, when and where collected, and the elevation, if known. If the seeds will be shared or taken to an exchange, you will also need the date, name of collector, and a disclaimer about germination.* You will want to take the seeds from a plant after it has finished flowering and the fruits are ripe/mature. Stems that are nice and crispy and flower heads that are completely dry are what you’re looking for. Generally, you’ll clip a stem from the plant, turn the stem upside down inside the paper bag, and let the seeds fall into the bag. Sometimes you’ll have to coax the seed out of its covering. You’ll get a lot of non-seed plant material in the bag with the seed, and some folks like to separate the seed from the detritus, but it’s not necessary, and can be done later. Do check for seed predators–”true bugs” are common predators of seeds, even while on the plant. Don’t bring home a pest!

Most plant seeds are obvious. If not obvious, you may have to consult the internet for a picture of the plant’s particular seed. For times of year to collect seed from a specific plant, consult the Germination Guide for Native Seeds.

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