Washington Native Plant Society Policy On Collection and Sale Of Native Plants

[Home] [Books] [Plants & Wildlife] [Organizations] [Nurseries] [Events] [More] [Index]


One of the major objectives of the Washington Native Plant Society is the conservation of the native flora of the state. Collection of plants from the wild represents a potential threat to rare species as well as local populations of more common plants. There are, however, situations where plant collecting is legitimate and justifiable. In addition, many of the Society's members are avid gardeners who enjoy making use of native species. In order to guide its members and the general public, the WNPS board of directors has developed the following guidelines governing collection of plants from the wild. Many of these guidelines were initially developed by The Plant Conservation Roundtable, but have been adapted for our purposes.

Basic Guidelines

  1. Know which taxa are locally or nationally rare. Obtain a copy of the most recent edition of Endangered, Threatened and Sensitive Vascular Plants of Washington from the Washington Natural Heritage Program. These plants, or parts thereof, should only be collected for scientific research or in order to salvage them from sites in imminent danger of destruction. These situations are more fully discussed below.
  2. The sale or trade, at any event which is associated with the WNPS, of any plant, or part thereof, which is listed by the Washington Natural Heritage Program as Endangered, Threatened or Sensitive, should be discouraged. In addition to the potential threat posed by the initial collection of plant material, such action might contribute to the creation of a market, over which we would have no control, for such species.
  3. Many WNPS members and members of the general public use plants native to Washington in various landscaping endeavors. However, the WNPS discourages the use of whole plants collected from the wild for such purposes. Rather, plants should be obtained through collection of seed (if abundant) or the taking of cuttings or other plant parts. Members are further encouraged to obtain native plant materials from commercial enterprises which also only collect seeds or cuttings, rather than whole plants.

Collecting Seeds or Taking Cuttings

  1. Obtain needed permits for any collecting you do on public lands. Obtain the permission of the landowner before collecting on private land. Report illegal or unauthorized collecting that you encounter to the appropriate individuals or authorities.
  2. If you encounter a plant with which you are not familiar, assume it is rare and refrain from collecting until you have ascertained that it is not rare.
  3. Collect discriminately, even in large populations. Collect only the amount of material you will actually make use of. Care properly for any material you collect - do not let it go to waste.
  4. Collect discreetly so as not to encourage others to collect indiscriminately. Be prepared to explain what you are doing and why.
  5. Avoid unnecessary damage to sites and their aesthetic values. Avoid frequent visits to the same sites.
  6. Teach others about proper and careful collecting. When taking others into the field, visit only non-sensitive areas. Discuss the conservation considerations underlying your collecting techniques.

Scientific Research/Documentation/Education

Collecting whole plants is legitimate in certain situations. Voucher specimens may be important to document a species' presence at a given place and time. Some scientific research and/or educational purposes may require the collection of whole plants. There are also times when a site is scheduled for imminent destruction. The following guidelines should be applied in addition to those listed above.

  1. Collecting along trails and in other areas of high impact is strongly discouraged.
  2. Collect only the minimum amount of material necessary for your documentation, research or educational purposes. When feasible, use photography or other methods of documentation rather than collecting.
  3. Avoid collecting from small populations. Various guidelines use different minimum numbers, but generally you should avoid populations with fewer than 100 plants. When essential to verify a possible new record for an area, or to obtain a scientific voucher, collect only a single specimen. Do not collect whole plants when plant parts are sufficient. Do not collect samples so large as to adversely affect the population's reproduction and survival. For voucher specimens, take only a small part if this would be adequate for positive identification. Never collect the only plant at a site.
  4. If you encounter a plant with which you are unfamiliar, assume it is rare and exercise one of the following options:
  5. Before collecting multiple specimens for various herbaria, make sure there is a clear need for the number of specimens you wish to collect. Be sure the plant is abundant enough to withstand the collection of multiple specimens. Collect population samples only as part of a scientifically designed sampling plan for a specific scientific purpose. Collect no more than 5 percent of the plants visible in any population.
  6. Care properly for the specimens you collect. Deposit herbarium specimens in an appropriate, recognized, publicly accessible collection. Follow standard methods, such as the guidelines issued by the Association of Systematics Collections for labeling the specimens.
  7. When choosing live plant material to use for scientific research, if possible use plants or plant parts from existing collections or from propagated sources. If you must collect living plants from the wild for scientific research, collect in a manner least likely to damage the wild population. In order of general preference, collect (1) seeds (if abundant), (2) cuttings or other plant parts, (3) whole plants. Leave behind some reproductive or regenerative parts such as fruits, roots, or rhizomes.
  8. When discussing your research results, describe conservation considerations underlying your collecting techniques.
  9. WNPS discourages the purchase of wild-collected plants (or plant parts) of rare or protected taxa, even for research, teaching, or herbarium specimens.

Salvage Operations

  1. Conduct salvage projects only in sites that are scheduled for imminent destruction and only in conjunction with appropriate agencies or conservation organizations, in order to ensure that all avenues to provide protection to the site have been pursued. If the site is public land, maintaining contact will also ensure that necessary permits and documentation are obtained. If the site is private land, obtain prior permission of the landowner. Collect only from those portions of the site which will not remain natural. Use salvaged plants only for such purposes as relocation, public education, botanical research or documentation, or as propagation stock, and not to sell to the public.
  2. In the event that a rare plant occurs within an area facing destruction, contact the Washington Natural Heritage Program. If a population is no longer going to be in existence, this information should be entered into their data base. Voucher specimens from the site may also be desirable; contact the WNHP and/or herbaria regarding this matter. To the extent possible, the fate of the rescued plants should be documented. Rare plants should be relocated only under the guidance of a plan which has been reviewed and approved by appropriate agencies and individuals.

Return to top of document.

© Copyright 1996 Washington Native Plant Society, All Rights Reserved

Last Modified March 6, 1996