Rhody Native Seed Collection Protocol by Hope Leeson

Based on:

A Workshop given by Tristram Siedler, NEWFS; August 14, 2010
NEWFS Conservation Policies and Guidelines for Native Plant Collection, Native Plant Distribution and Invasive Plants; 2002

The Bureau of Land Management Seeds of Success Technical Protocol for the Collection, Study, and Conservation of Seeds from Native Plant Species

Tools for Collecting:

  • Appropriate footwear
  • Backpack or shoulder bag
  • Bags to hold collections
  • Paper grocery bags; Manila envelopes; Plastic ziplock bags
  • Clippers
  • Field guides, ID keys
  • Gardening gloves
  • GPS unit (if you have one)
  • Hand lens, or loupe
  • Maps or printed directions
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Pen for marking bags
  • Plant press, or bags, for voucher specimens if unsure of plant id
  • Species list
  • Timepiece

Collection Considerations:

Assess the Population:

  • Confirm that there is a sufficient number of seeds at their natural dispersal stage. You will need greater than 20 (30) plants for herbaceous species and 10 individuals for woody plants.
  • Collect 10% (20%) of the viable seed of the total population.

Determine the Ripeness:

  • Examine a small, representative sample of seeds to determine seed color and hardness.
  • Ripe seed color: black, brown, Iight brown, or yellow. Not green or, with few exceptions, white.
  • Firmness of texture: Not easily dented with a fingernail.
  • Removal from plant: Falls into your hand, naturally dispersing.

Collection Methods

  • Collect mature seed in a paper or cloth bag (dry seed) or a plastic bag (fleshy fruit).
  • Remove seeds or fruiting structure only, without destroying the plant.
  • Pick or strip dry seed or pods from fruiting structure.
  • Pick individual fleshy fruits from fruiting structure.
  • Collect freshly dropped large seeds, nuts or fruits from ground.
  • Clip fleshy fruit or fruit from thorny plants that can’t be collected any other way.

Determining How Much to Collect

  • Estimate the number of seeds per fruiting structure (pod, fruit, spike etc.)
  • Know how much seed is desired from each population.
  • Determine your mte of collection: Number of fruiting structures collected per minute.
  • Calculate the amount of time required to collect the amount needed, add 10 – 20%.
  • Sample equally and randomly throughout the population.

Labeling Collection Bags

  • Label all bags with species name, collection site name, GPS location and date.
  • Write all the information down in your notebook.

Immediate Storage

  • Store dry seeds in paper bags, in a cool location, out of direct sunlight and ventilated.
  • Store fleshy fruits in plastic in a cooler. Refrigerate until they can be cleaned.


Equipment: Waterproof apron, water source at work table, several buckets, food processor, duct tape, large sieve, clean stir stick, several clean up rags, fine meshed screens, clean newpapaer, fan, small plastic flower pots.

  • Put one or two layers of duct tape on blades of food processor; one for small seeds (Rubus-raspberries) and two for larger seeds (0emlaria Indian plum),
  • Put a small amount of berries in the food processor, fill with cool water.
  • Holding hand over spout, pulse several times until a slurry forms.
  • Fill a bucket 1/2 full of cool water. Pour slurry into bucket of water and swirl around, Unviable seeds and berry mush will float to the surface. Viable seeds will sink to the bottom of the bucket. Set sieve over another bucket.
  • Slowly pour swirly water through sieve, stopping before the clean seeds are poured out of the first bucket. lf cleaning fine seeds, line a screen with clean newspaper. omit newspaper for large seeds. Retrieve clean seeds from first bucket and spear on screen.
  • Examine stuff in sieve. lf you feel there are enough seeds remaining in slurry dregs, repeat processing. Repeat this process until all fruits are seeded.
  • When you have completed the screening process put the screens of cleaned seeds in a well ventilated space to dry. Stand a flowerpot under each corner to ensure good ventilation, cover with a second screen so they don’t become mouse treats! Stir gently several times a day while drying, Running a fan in this area will help the drying process.
  • lf seeds stick together while drying, simply rub through your hands occasionally to separate. Plant out or store in fridge/freezer.

Some native plant with soft-berried seed/husks
Amelanchier alnifolia-saskatoon; Arctostaphylos uva-ursi-kinnikinnick; Cornus canadensis-bunchberry;
Cornus stolonifera, red-osier dogwood; Crataegus douqlasii-black hawthorn; Elaeagnus cummutata-wolf
willow; Gaultheria shallon-salal; Juniperus communis-common juniper; Lonicera spp-honeysuckles; Mahonia spp- 0regon grapes; Oemleria cerasiformis-lndian plum; Rhamnus purshiana-cascara; Ribes spp-currants; Rosa spp-roses; Rubus spp-raspberries; Sambucus spp-elderberries; Sorbus spp-mountain ash family; Symphoricarpos spp-snowberries; Vaccinium spp-huckleberries.


FLUFFY SEED HEADS e.g, Holodiscus discolour, Spiraea douglasii

You will need: sturdy gardening gloves, sieve of a size to allow seeds to pass thru, ice cream bucket, newspaper, small plastic bags, labels.
With gloves on, take small handfuls of seed heads and rub between your hands over a newspaper to separate seeds and chaff, Then put this into sieve and sift. Save and Iabel seeds, discard chaff.

CAPSULES & PODS e.g. Penstemon, Rhododendron & Lathyrus
You will need: sturdy gardening gloves, rolling pin, large screen with mesh of size to let seeds pass thru, newspaper, small plastic bags, labels.
With gloves on, put a handful of capsules or pods on screen on newspaper. GENTLY crush capsules/pods with rolling pin. Shake seeds thru screen. Save and label seeds. Discard chaff.

*With many pods, which curl open when dry, it is just as easy to flick the seeds out with your fingers.

CONES e.g. Alnus, Abies, Picea
You will need: face mask, paper grocery bag, and sieve of size large enough to allow seeds to pass thru.
When cleaning Alnus cones, wear a face mask as l’ve found them to be allergenic.
Put cones in paper bag and shake vigorously, Pour bag contents into sieve and sift seeds thru. Save and label seeds. Use cones for decorating.
lf you want to paint alnus cones, put cones in a paper bag, spray paint into bag and shake. Dry on blank newsprint.

You will need:sturdy gloves, newspaper.
Wearing gloves, take small handfuls of maple keys and rub vigorously between your hands over newspaper.
Winnow to separate seeds and chaff.

Sometimes, when separating chunkier seeds from chaff, better results are obtained by winnowing the seeds and chaff. lt is easiest to work at a large table.
You will need: broom, dust pan, Iarge plastic sheet to cover table, newspaper to cover plastic, fan, two deep buckets of same height, and ice cream bucket
Cover table with plastic, Cover plastic with newspaper. Place one deep bucket at end of table, upside down. Stand fan on this bucket with head in fixed position, facing down the length of the table. Turn fan on to low speed. Hold your hand in front of the fan so you can judge where the airflow is not too strong.
Position the other deep bucket, right side up, at this point in front of the fan.

Put the seeds and chaff in the ice-cream bucket. This will be triaI and error. Holding the ice-cream bucket above the deep bucket, slowly pour a little of the contents into the deep bucket. If positioning is correct, the heavier seeds will fall into the deep bucket and the chaff will blow onto the table. lf the air current is too strong and everything blows onto the table, simple scoop up the mixture, move the deep bucket a little further away from the fan and try again. With some experience, it becomes easy to judge the distance from the fan.

While I have only grown Garry oak, I think this method should also apply to Hazelnut.

You will need: seeds, bucketful of water, two screens of same size with two pieces of black landscape cloth to match screens, weights or clamps to hold screens together… and later, 1 gal. pot full of Ieafy compost
Put all seeds in bucket of water and soak for a while (overnight is good). Seeds that sink are viable. Throw the floaters away where critters can eat them, This will also drown any worms in the seeds. Put a layer of Iandscape cloth on a screen. Spread seeds on this. Lay second Iayer of cloth over seeds. Put second screen on top, Weiqh or clamp all together so seeds don’t become critter snacks. Put this packaqe on table in greenhouse or in shady spot outdoors. Water 3-4 times daily. As seeds sprout, transfer to pots of soil, ensuring that soil is gently tamped down while not damaging the sprout. Put one seed per pot. Water pot to ensure good contact between soil and seed. Continue to water regularly. Seedlings will remain in this pot until sold or ready to plant out carefully, taking care to not damage the root. lf you have only a handful of seeds, sprouting can be done in a canning jar with screen on top, as if sprouting seeds, I find the cupboard under the kitchen sink is a good, dark, warm spot.

Adapted from the USDI Bureau of Land Management Technical Protocol For the Collection, Study, and
Conservation of Seeds From Native Species for SEEDS OF SUCCESS. 2010.