WANTED: Seed Collectors

Front Page, News-Archive

SOWN Nursery is calling for more members to become seed collectors to ensure there are plenty of local plants species available for planting.

If you have local native plants in your garden or you’re a regular bushcare volunteer, you are perfectly placed to notice when plants are fruiting. More information about seed collecting.

SOWN life member Anne Jones has been collecting seeds for the SOWN Nursery for more than 20 years. She says it’s just a matter of looking around you to notice which plants are fruiting and producing seed.

“Some of our native plants have fruit so big you can trip over it. For instance, the Peanut Tree Sterculia quadrifida has large red seed pods with black fruit about the size of a black olive,” she said.

“Becoming a seed collector is about building your awareness of when plants are flowering and fruiting. Then waiting until the fruit is fully ripe before collecting,” Anne said.

She says that collecting fruits and seed is a great way to learn more about our local plants.

“If you see a plant in flower or fruiting but you don’t know the name, take some photos and try to work it out,” she said.

The SOWN web site Plants to Plant is a great place to start – the plant list has photographs to help with identification. The SOWN Nursery has an extensive library of reference books and many of the volunteers on Wednesday and Saturday can help. Numerous apps have identification functions including iNaturalist and Facebook’s Queensland Plant Identification page has many helpful users.

Once you’ve spotted seed for collection, it’s just a matter of collecting, bagging it up, labelling and getting it to the SOWN Nursery without too much delay. Opening hours are here.

Read the SOWN eNews which often includes information about what seeds are currently producing fruit. Some plants drop their fruit when it ripens, others can be picked direct from the plant. You can find out more about many local species by reading about them in Plants to Plant.

All local plants are propagated and grown on at the SOWN Nursery with the exception of local Lomandra species. These plants are propagated and grown on by a partnership between Queensland Corrective Services and SOWN. The partnership requires SOWN to collect and process the seed. Seed collectors are encouraged to collect seed particularly around January each year when the fruit is ripe. This web site includes get detailed information about how to the identify Lomandra hystrix and Lomandra longifolia.

All seeds must be clearly labelled with:

  • Scientific name of the plant
  • Common name of the plant
  • Location where the plant was collected
  • Date of collection
  • Name of the collector

Tips for collecting:

  • All mistakes are forgiven. It’s not a test. Don’t worry if you’re not 100% confident about your identification. The propagation team will sort it out.
  • Leave more than you take. Native animals use our local plants as their food sources. This includes birds, bats and insects.
  • Make sure it’s ripe. Fruit that’s firm is probably not ripe. It’s needs to be a bit squishy.
  • Stay safe. Wear appropriate clothing, sun screen and insect repellant. Do not use a ladder, climb trees or sit on the ground. See 10 tips for staying safe.
  • Keep it nice. Try to keep the seed relatively dry and free from dirt and leaf litter.
  • Start a collecting kit. Reusable plastic containers with lids are good to use in the field collecting. Write notes on the lids.
  • Don’t dawdle. It’s best to deliver the seeds without too much delay. Some plants propagate more readily when the seed is fresh.

“You don’t have to register. Just see the seeds, pick them up and bring them in. It’s a simple way to help SOWN and a good excuse to enjoy our beautiful environment.”

Seeds of Sterculia quadrifida Peanut Tree are easy to identify when they fruit around November and December.  Often you will see the black seeds on the ground at the base of the tree. It’s called a Peanut Tree because the seeds taste like peanuts. PHOTO: Robert Whyte

Labelled bag for Sterculia quadrifida. No need to bag the pods. Just put the black seeds in a bag appropriately labelled and take to the SOWN Nursery. PHOTO: Anne Jones

For more information see the Florabank Guidelines for Native Seed Collection Methods PDF 347 KB