Autumn - one of my favorite times of the year. The air is crisp and cool, pumpkins are in season and the mountains are bright with the brilliant yellows and reds of the turning aspens. However, as a gardener and wildflower enthusiast, I can’t help but be a little sad that my gardening days are coming to an end for the season. Prepping the beds and cleaning and putting my tools away for winter are never my favorite things to do. However, there is one thing I always look forward to doing every fall - collecting wildflower seed.
I love hiking in the mountains and, during the spring and summer months, I always am spotting beautiful wildflowers that I would love to have in my own garden at home - plants I never can find at nurseries or, if I do, they are beyond expensive. And, I’m sure I’m not alone… it is so tempting to just dig up plants from their native habitat to transplant them to your garden. However, I resist this urge because I know removing them disrupts a very delicate ecological balance and can result in long-lasting, detrimental impacts to the environment. So, I take lots of pictures.eeds.cm
Be aware though, seed collecting is not always an option. Federal, state and county laws prohibit seed collecting on their respective lands (unless a permit is obtained). So, I always make a point to spend some time exploring areas where I know I can collect seed when fall comes - the land around my house, other private land and land slated for development (with permission, of course), and County ROWs.
Once I locate a plant from which I want to collect seed, I either GPS the location, mark the plant with colorful flagging and / or take notes on its specific location and botanical characteristics. If there is one thing I have learned when it comes to seed collecting, it is that no matter how confident I am that I can find the plant again, if I don’t mark it somehow, then my chances of relocating it are slim to none!
When collecting seed, there are a few basic rules to follow. Always know what you are collecting. There are many invasive “look-a-likes” and it is so important not to collect and spread seed from these weeds. Likewise, check your clothing, shoes and equipment for any seed; you don’t want to bring in any unwanted hitchhikers! Minimize your impact to the collection site - avoid disturbing habitat and trampling the soil. Only collect from plants that are abundant in a given population and never collect from rare or endangered species. Once you are ready to collect, make sure the seed is mature (otherwise you are just wasting it) and never collect more than 10% from any given plant. Paper bags are best for seed collecting and storage; plastic bags can lead to molding. Make sure to label your bag with the species, date and location and make note of any site characteristics (e.g., aspect, microhabitat).
Now, it is time to relax! Let the snow come. Dream about next year’s garden and eagerly await your new wildflower seedlings that will germinate next spring and summer!
If interested learning more about wildflower seed collecting, CSU Extension in Clear Creek County will be offering a “Wildflower Seed Collecting” presentation on October 26th at 6pm at the Georgetown Heritage Center in Georgetown, CO. Master Gardeners will discuss in more detail the following topics:
● Why wildflower seed?
● Laws and ethics
● Identification and good seed plants
● Cleaning, storage and sowing
For more information, please visit:
The Heritage Center’s website at www.georgetowntrust.org/classes---events.html
CSU Extension in Clear Creek County at www.clearcreek.colostate.edu
Christine Crouse, Director | Agent
Office: 303-679-2424 | Cell: 970-389-8724
1111 Rose Street | P.O. Box 2000
Georgetown, CO 80444
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