Issue Number #30
Issue Date Summer 2005
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Title Seed Collecting Hints

Before you go

  • Obtain permission from the landholder/council/government department.
  • On the day you visit, pay a courtesy call to let the landholder know you have arrived.
  • Leave gates as found - open or closed. Use existing roads/tracks where possible.
  • Do not disturb stock. Leave dogs at home.

Things to take with you.

  • Paper or cloth bags for seeds/pods. Plastic bags for 'sweat' seeds.
  • Clean, sharp secateurs.
  • Plant identification guides.
  • Tags and pencils for labelling specimens.
  • Markers, pegs or coloured tape for finding a plant once the flowers have gone.
  • Pieces of stockings, rubber bands or string to make bags around developing seed heads, to catch seed as they fall.
  • Camera - for help with identification or shots of the environment/habitat.

Back in the car

If you collect pieces for identification, or if you have cuttings to strike, it is a good idea to keep them cool so they don't wilt. For this, take wet newspaper to wrap the cuttings. An eski with ice bricks will keep them fresh.

Time to go Seed Collecting.

Generally seeds ripen throughout summer, so plan some trips starting late December. Plants set seed at different times, according to species and local habits and climatic variations. Its worth going regularly to catch seeds of different species. Some seed can also be collected throughout the year. A pleasant walk in Spring, among the flowers, is a good time to identify plants and mark them for later seed collection. Make sure you've got some seed in the capsule, before you collect a lot.

How do you know when the seed is ripe?

Observe colour changes of seeds, usually from green to brown, black or red when ripe. They usually become easier to remove from the plant. Then collect the seeds or the pods/capsules they are in, preferably by cutting with clean secateurs so as not to damage the plant.

Hard cone seeds sheoaks, banksias, tea trees and other Myrtaceae - collect the oldest cones that have not yet opened (ie. The valves should be closed). They will be greyish, and further down the stem than the younger and unripe cones. These can be collected at anytime of year.

What if you miss seed ripening?

Some plants (eg. most Myrtaceae) hold onto their heads for a long time and so can be collected from at almost anytime of the year (see above). Others release their seeds almost immediately they are ripe, so it is easy to miss them. If you think the seed may drop while you are away, tie a bag around the fruit to catch the seed, ready for collection later. Old stockings make good bags.

What to do once you are home

If you collected into plastic bags, remember when you get home to move them into a paper or cloth bag so they don't go mouldy. Then just leave the bags somewhere warm and dry (in a cupboard, near the fire). Pods/capsules usually open quite easily, releasing their seeds into the bag. Store the seeds in a container, preferably in the fridge where they will last longer. The Network has cool store facililties in Hobart at greening Australia. Label the container clearly with the date, location and plant name.

Some things to keep in mind.

  • Collect from healthy plants where possible. Collect above the 'splash zone' to avoid phytophthora cinnamomi contamination.
  • Collect from at least ten seed plants of the same species, spread over at least 100m to ensure genetic diversity.
  • Do not remove more than 25% of the available crop from any one plant. If the plant seems rare, bear in mind that seed collection is reducing the plant's ability to reproduce in its own environment.

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