Wild Collecting – The Law and Everyone.

Wild Collecting – The Law and Everyone.

We are getting an increasing number of questions asking what are members of the public allowed to do with regards to picking plants when you’re not on your own property.


Our wild plants now face two new additional threats: foraging and grey imports (see my blog on Grey Imports, 6th May 2023). These add to the list of threats including over zealous agriculture, herbicides, pollinator loss and climate changes.
At True Harvest Seeds we are deeply concerned about the increasing loss of wild habitats and their remaining species.

Land ownership

So legally, basically someone owns every piece of Ireland. I will focus on Northern Ireland for this blog. If you can tell me about ROI regulations please email me at debbie@trueharvestseeds.org.
Farmers own out to the white line on the road adjoining their fields.
Nature reserves are often owned by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), as is most of the shore line to the high tide water mark, then it’s owned by the crown. To find out i usually ask around locally, and failing that you can go to the land registry office. https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/land-property-services-lps
Land owners own the plants and their seed regardless of the species – so this is the same for, for example, barley as it is for wild plants. So, you can see, it follows that you must by law ask the land owner for permission to take any plant material away, otherwise it is theft. Verbal and written permission are both valid.
Land owners protect the plants they have. Usually they will know what they have, including species on the Schedule 8 and protected list, and they are our best guide – they know (should know) who has been on their property and what has been picked, so are best placed to prevent overpicking by multiple visitors.

Land designation

In addition to this, some areas of land are designated with protections – Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), for eg. Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) or Natura 2000 sites.
For more info. on SACs https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/special-areas-conservation.
So you must get written assent to work on protected areas from the NIEA.

Protected plant species

Finally you have protected species that are listed on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife Order NI https://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisi/1985/171/schedule/8
This list is under review and now has additional species on it. Up from 88 there are now 114 protected vascular plant species – ie. that are in serious danger of becoming extinct and or are in steep decline.
There is also a list of priority species https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/list-northern-ireland-priority-species-2023, makes an interesting read.
If you want to work on a species listed on the Schedule 8, you must be granted a license from the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), before you start work and you must agree to deliver an end of year report on your activities.

Collecting protocols

True Harvest Seeds uses ENSCONET protocols https://brahmsonline.kew.org/Content/Projects/msbp/resources/Training/ENSCONET_Collecting_protocol_English.pdf for making collections.
One important point is, we only to take up to 20% of the seed available on just one day of a year. This protects the wild populations from over picking.


Ultimately, we strongly advise against random collections from wild populations. With the popularity of foraging and now the grey imports of our own species flooding the country, both threats further add to the list of pressures on our wild flora, we are deeply concerned about the survival of many species. Which of course directly affects their niche habitats and ultimately our own wider habitat.

Training in seed collections

A world without plants, is no world at all. Please help us protect our wild plants. Either leave them be, or take training (you can do this with True Harvest Seeds) to make high quality scientific seed collections, collections which you can then bulk up yourself for more seeds in future years.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
Debbie Gillies
21st May 2023

To err is human, to forgive divine. This article is not peer reviewed and whilst i have taken great care to be accurate, I am of course not infallible, so if you are in the know and see an omission or error, please do get in touch, correct me by email at debbie@trueharvestseeds.org and i will correct. Tx

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