How do I collect wild flower seeds?
Collecting wild flower seed is a tricky business! In the wild, different plant families spread their seed in many different ways. This means that, depending on the flower, different methods of harvesting are required for different plants in order to achieve sympathetic seed harvesting.
Does collecting wild flower seeds hurt nature?
Collecting seed from the wild can easily harm plant colonies. Careless handling of the plant and excessive trampling can damage or even kill parent plants and their neighbours. Only take seeds from a well established colony, a few heads at a time, storing them in a paper bag ready for sowing.
Remember, some of the rarer species of wild flower and their seeds are protected by law. A list of plants protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 can be found here. It is an offence to pick, uproot or collect seed from these plants. To do so can result in hefty fines.
When to harvest
Generally seeds are ready to harvest when the seed head has dried out completely and turned brown. Capsule type seed heads require the seed to be tipped or gently shaken out whilst others may need crushing. Those that don’t have a seed head but grow their seeds on stems will require snipping off in short sections when dried out completely.
The wild flower seed would have been distributed immediately after the seed heads had gone over. It is best to replicate this by sowing the seeds straight away. If you wish to save the seeds for a period of time, keep the seeds in a paper bag or envelope somewhere dark and dry like a drawer or a tin.
When should I sew wild flower seeds?
For the best chances of germination, try to replicate the process that the seed would have undergone in the wild. Some wild flower seed will remain dormant until it has undergone stratification, been exposed to a period of cold or freezing temperatures. Sowing the seeds immediately after harvesting is often best, although can be delayed until the autumn. This allows the seed to experience a winter season underground as it would have done in the wild.