Collecting wild flower seed from the wild is one way to get fresh seed. There are a few considerations for those adventerous enough to try it out.
If it’s native seed you’re looking for, how do you find out if the population you’ve spotted is actually native? To find out follow the No.1 golden rule (law actually):
Ask the permission of the land owner and while you’re there you can discuss the history of the population, you never know, maybe Granny’s Granny fancied some of that in the hedgerow outside the gate and brought some back from holiday in the outer Hebrides. Tell the land owner what you’re thinking of for their seed. If you’re going to commercialise it, best to let them know. In Ireland adjacent fields own out to the dotted line in the middle of the road, so hedgerows are, by and large, owned by the field owners.
Check your species isn’t on the Schedule 8 (NI) and Red List (ROI), if it is you’ll need special permission to work with these. Ireland Red List No. 10: Vascular Plants. Use a good ID book to be sure. Clive Stace, vol. 4 is a good field guide, for beginners Francis Rose is pretty respectable.
Follow the ENSCONET seed collecting protocols. Here is where asking the land owner also becomes useful : they will know how many people want to take from a particular population. You might not think it, but it is easy enough to harm your donor population.
Learn how to treat your seed after you’ve collected it. Post harvest handling is a vital part of a seed’s life – it’s only just left home after all, and it’s a little bit soft and vulnerable. In short, collect in breathable material, cloth or paper – plastic will suffocate them. Keep in the shade and cool – sunlight and heat dessicate them with their soft new seed coats. Clean them up, lose the chaff etc.. Sowing straight away prevents many species from going into dormancy. Or to store – take regard to all of the above plus protect from hungry bods (mice, grubs etc.).
If you just can’t get your seed from the wild you can try the local Irish seed producers. You can ask and find out if the seed you’re getting is native ORIGIN, ask them where the seed they’re selling originates from, they will be able to trace back and tell you. Be gentle with us we also have lives and livlihoods that need our time.
And Finally… Please don’t import species that are endangered, in fact don’t import those that aren’t endangered either or we’ll end up with our island covered in hybrids – that suffer a fate as that of our poor Bluebells.
It’s illegal to lift plants from the wild, but again if you find the land owner they may let you dig up some of theirs 🙂
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