I have gathered wild seeds each fall for about the past three years, for
sowing in my garden. I will admit I have done some of this collecting in
county and state parks, where it is presumably not permitted. Today, in
conversation with a state park naturalist, I admitted it, and I'm not
certain just how dastardly a crime she considered it.
I have been trying to think of some reason to feel guilty about my
collecting of common native seeds, but, aside from breaking the "no
collecting" rule, I cannot feel much remorse. The plants from which I am
collecting produce probably millions of seeds per acre. The seeds in the
wild will probably meet one of three fates: Many will be eaten, and after
passing through the digestive system, some will remain (or become) viable.
Many of the remainder will lie dormant, waiting for the unlikely event
that enough free soil and available light will come along, due to some
disturbance of the existing plants, to permit it to grow. An extremely
small percentage will actually fall into conditions making germination and
On the other hand, the seeds that have been sown in my back and front
yard, in rich, prepared soil, are much more likely to germinate and grow.
Some will be lost to the birds, there is nothing wrong with that, but I
have far fewer rodents than a wild meadow would, so many more seeds are
likely to remain uneaten. As a matter of fact, I have had great success
with most of the seeds I have spread.
I have begun marking the various native flora in my yard. Also, I find
that by being able to watch individual plants grow and develop, I am much
better able to identify several species at all stages of growth.
My collecting of wild seed is not a very popular pastime, and I'm certain
I'm not effecting the biodiversity of the park by filling a small Zip-Lock
bag with seeds of wingstem, joe-pye weed, dogbane, and the like. But
let's say that this catches on, and in a few years, you have hundreds of
people collecting seeds, and sowing the wild, native plants in their front
and back yards, where there previously grew only grass and ubiquitous
garden plants. Would that be a bad thing, or a good thing?
I will certainly not defend digging up uncommon native plants from parks,
and do not buy plants from Mellinger's specifically because they sell
ladies slippers with no more advise, warnings, or limits than they would
give to marigolds. But in moving wild native seed from where it is to
where it once was but is no longer, I feel I am more of a saint than a