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  • ljmarkson

Attend a Native Plant Seed Swap!

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Native plants are a cornerstone of creating a habitat-friendly, sustainable yard for wildlife. They offer food, shelter, coverage, nesting material and nesting sites. If planted in similar conditions to where they would grow in the wild, native plants can be hardy, low maintenance, and save water usage. Native plants also create a dynamic and beautiful year-round landscape filled with life.

My rewilded right-of-way strip helps nature and adds natural beauty to my street. Native plants in photo include Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum), goldenrod(Solidago), beautyberry shrub (Calicarpa americana), and doll's daisy (Boltonia)

As interest in native plants as a primary landscape option grows native plant seed swaps are also popping up. In the future I hope to have a standalone seed collecting workshop and swap to contribute to a stronger local seed sharing culture, but for now I’m starting small by adding a native plant seed swap table at my upcoming winter sowing presentation about growing native plants from seed.  A seed swap is a way to:

  • find locally grown seeds

  • get seeds native to your ecoregion

  • increase biodiversity by growing a wider variety of native seeds

  • save money

  • connect to and share ideas with other people growing native plants

Native seed swaps are a way to share what you have, meet other native plant friends, and add more biodiversity to your yard.

The basic rules for a native plant seed swap are simple and pretty much the same everywhere

  • Bring only native seeds that grow in your ecoregion.  You can look up the name of any seeds on the Prairie Moon Nursery site and they offer great information about all the seeds they sell including a map of where they would naturally grow. Other resources to figure out what is native to where you live include the National Wildlife Federation and your Native Plant Society.

Prairie Moon Nursery catalog can be used as a resource for learning more about any seeds you might bring to a seed swap.
  • Bring ethically sourced seeds. The growing popularity of native plants makes them at risk for being poached or overharvested in the wild. Taking any part of a native plant without asking on public or private land is not only unethical, but it can degrade the local ecosystem by harming the plant population.

Native plant seeds support the ecosystem where they grow. Pictured is a native butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) seed pod just about ready to fluff up and fly off in the wind.
  • It’s not okay to collect seeds (or plants!) in national, state, or local parks. In local parks there is often a team of dedicated volunteers and local organizations that have spent a great deal of time and money restoring the natural areas by removing invasives and adding back native plants that were propagated and/or donated. Taking seeds disrupts the restoration process. (video of an restoration park site in Atlanta)

  • Seeds ensure a plant remains in the area it is growing to offer food for the local wildlife. If you have permission to collect seeds or even if you are collecting in your own yard, the general rule is don’t collect more than 5% of the seeds from an individual plant or the population as a whole.

Even if you grow native plants, leave most of the native seeds for the wildlife that depend on them for survival like this ruby-crowned kinglet who is primarily an insectivore, but eats seeds and berries in the winter when he migrates to Atlanta.
  • Do not collect or bring seeds of rare, endangered, or threatened native seeds. The native plant community is not about the kind of collector mentality that contributes to species loss. Organizations around the country like the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA) have created a network of dozens of non-profit organizations and private businesses to study and conserve vulnerable native plants. Reputable native plant nurseries that might have a rare native plant will be coordinating their efforts with others and not poaching or selling them just to make a profit.

Reputable native plant nurseries often partner with local non-profit organizations. For example the organizations in this screenshot are the ones Beech Hollow Farms Nursery in Atlanta partners with – the bottom left is the logo for GPCA

Do not bring seeds from anywhere that pesticides have been used. No one wants plants or seeds with residual poison on them.

Seriously - no one wants seeds or anything from a yard where this guy has been spreading poison!

Include as much information as you can such as the common name (e.g. scarlet sage), scientific or Latin name (e.g.Salvia coccinea), the year and month you collected them (or the year you bought them), and anything else about the seeds or plants you can fit on an envelope.

This is the information I put on seed packets I share.

If you’re in Atlanta on December 2, register for the winter sowing presentation (Here) and be part of the seed sharing movement. The swap will start after the presentation. If you already winter sow and only want to participate in the seed swap you still need to register – just send a note when you register that you’re coming for the swap and show up at 12:30.

If you come to the Seed Swap and Winter Sowing presentation and don’t yet have native seeds to share there will be at least one packet for everyone who attends.

The aim is to grow and share native plant seeds to suppor local biodiversity and habitat restoration, including yards. If you’re not in Atlanta, (or even if you are!) consider organizing a local native plant seed swap where you live!

Adding biodiversity to your yard supports wildlife including rare bumblebees like this American bumblebee female who spends the growing season pollinating the native plants in my rewilded yard.

Note: There are no affiliate links in this blog. Please click the highlighted text throughout the post for links to references, details, explanations, worthy organizations or businesses, or examples that I think might be helpful.


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