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13.9.07

Confessions Of A Seed Snatcher

How to collect seeds, seed snatcher, seed saving, seedsA few weeks ago I put the poll in the sidebar of this blog wondering if people would admit to being "seed snatchers." Not surprisingly some of the respondents didn't know what a seed snatcher was or maybe they aren't familiar with the term. I was surprised the number of people who admit to participating in the practice.



What Is A Seed Snatcher?

Seed snatchers are gardeners/seed collectors that collect seeds from plants they didn't grow. Who or where a seed snatcher takes seeds from may depend on various factors but mostly they are guided by their moral compass. A seed snatcher can act alone but may force family members or friends to help in their seed collecting habit by acting as a look out or driver.

What Seeds Are Fair Game?

It is generally accepted that you don't take seeds from fellow gardeners and botanic gardens. It is said that gardeners are the most generous bunch of people and if you ask for seeds from their garden they are more than likely to share. Botanic gardens are off limits because they are living plant museums-you wouldn't walk into a museum and help yourself to a Rembrandt.

Depending on the individual; ripe seed heads on plants in garden centers may or may not be off limits. Some gardeners may allow a seed head, or two, to fall into a potted plant they are buying-while others will take seed heads even if they aren't making a purchase. Similarly, some gardeners don't feel any guilt taking from a "big box" garden center but wouldn't dream of taking seeds from a plant in an independently-owned garden center.

Seed heads growing alongside the road, in parks/planters (maintained by your local government), landscaping in parking lots of stores/malls and abandoned properties are up for grabs for most gardeners that seed snatch. Some gardeners think that if a seed head extends a property line, even if grown by a fellow gardener, it can be collected.

What Do You Do With Seeds You Snatch?

What a gardener does with a seed they snatch is really up to the individual. They can take the seeds and germinate them to extend their own gardens. Other seed snatchers will collect seeds so they can trade with other gardeners or give away to newbie gardeners on gardening forums. Considering that most seed traders are trading and want to receive named seeds it is thought to be bad form to trade seeds from plants that aren't identified. Some seed snatchers may collect seeds so they can participate in guerrilla gardening and beautify their surroundings.

Do I Do It?

Yes. I do seed snatch and it wasn't until recently that I self-imposed rules that guide my seed collecting habits. There was a time when I would collect seeds from just about anywhere but the first time that a seed pod I was waiting on to ripen was snatched from my garden my whole views changed. I don't take what I know I won't use in my garden or sow in empty lots around me. I don't take seed pods from garden centers. I don't snatch seed pods from fellow gardeners but I don't feel any guilt taking seed pods from city planters and parking lot landscapes.

Recently I was visiting a family member in the hospital and on my way into the building I passed by a planter with daylily seed pods that had begun to split. Without a second thought I reached out and cupped them in my hand and pulled them off without missing a step. A few days later I found myself at Sprout Home (a Chicago garden center) and had to keep the little green monster in check and not swipe a few seeds that were about to spill from their pods. Three days after that I was in a neighbor's garden photographing a plant and was overcome with the urge to swipe a seed pod. I was able to keep myself in check and asked if I could come back later and collect a seed pod.

Later that week I wasn't able to control myself after I stopped into a Home Depot to buy a Venus Flytrap and a North American Pitcher Plant. As I was walking around looking at the perennials I spotted a Purple Coneflower seed head that was about to fall off and took it. I felt bad afterwards even though I made a purchase-most of my guilt stemmed from the fact that I don't need any more Purple Coneflowers, I have plenty in my own garden! I was weak and had a greedy gardener moment. To try to make amends with the garden gods I took the seed pod I stole and some from my own garden and buried them in an empty lot.

Two years ago I snatched Cleome seeds from a garden because the heads spilled out into an alley. At the time I justified my decision to snatch from a fellow gardener because the seeds wouldn't fall on soil and germinate so in a way I was giving the seeds a helping hand. This year I returned a few plants that I had grown from those seeds to the same gardener. When she saw what I was bringing over she was very excited because Cleomes are her favorite and they haven't been reseeding themselves because people have been taking the seed heads. The only thing I could say was "Don't you just hate those kinds of people?" as I helped her plant the Cleomes I brought over.

Seed snatching season is upon me and there are ripe seed heads everywhere that need my help. I'm glad I've already established my boundaries (with a few slip-ups) that have allowed me to enjoy the season relatively guilt free. If you're a seed snatcher or have been the victim of a seed snatcher you may enjoy these seed snatching confessions/rants on GardenWeb.

22 comments:

  1. Sassy Gardener8:43 PM

    Too funny! One year I found all of my poppy seed heads had been cleanly clipped off...and taken by someone just like you! Nah, you wouldn't take them all. But I wasn't too happy. I've got 4 o'clock seeds coming out of my ears: I'd have to laugh if someone tried to stealth-like steal some. I'd probably go out and offer them more. Ha!

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  2. socially acceptable stealing - i love it! thanks for explaining this. i was one of the people who responded that I don't know what seed snatching is, so this was very helpful.

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  3. Dude, please do a post on how the venus fly trap and pitcher plant turn out! Also, loving the discussion of gardening ethics! Neat post topic.

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  4. This is a funny post! Yeah, those darned ethics, and I love you planting some of your own seeds in an empty lot to restore your garden karma. Do I do it? Not to say I wouldn't but since I no longer grow from seeds there'd be no point. I'm with Sassy though, I'd love to have someone come steal my 4 O'clock seeds!

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  5. I have been known to be a seed snatcher and cutting snatcher as well.

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  6. How interesting to read your thoughts on seed snatching - something we have been doing for years without really working out the pros & cons. We would never steal seed heads that were going to be used by someone else....and only take one or two from a whole mass of wild flowers.
    You did not mention the beauty of the seed head - which is one of the main reasons we take them, so that we can sit and wonder at them at home. Then the seeds are set when their viewing period is over!
    You have made us realise that seed snatching is an interetsing moral dilemma!

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  7. haha, great post! i must admit, i am an avid seed snatcher, although i usually never venture into a person's yard to snatch. a lot of my snatching happen admist carob trees and many public fabaceae patches. I like pods that rattle.

    i also take cuttings. i steal cuttings with abandon. as justification, i only take cuttings when it seems there is a large abundance to the point of take over. a little snip here and there can't hurt too bad... or does it?

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  8. I've done some seed snatching but not too often. I like your discussion about where you draw the line.

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

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  9. thinking about how some will steal from a Home Depot but not a local place made me think of Robin Hood. anyone out there stealing seeds from the rich to give to the poor?

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  10. that's great! am i the only one stalking succulent bits or do you do that too?

    at whole foods, i bought a sweet potato vine late in the season, and i confess to snagging seed pods from some of its friends. it's always interesting to see how other people sort through the rules... thanks for sharing!

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  11. Your Cleome story is a good one :-)
    I guess I'm not a seed snatcher because I just can't seem to grow things from seed, though I try often enough...

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  12. Well, when I think of thieves, I think of low-down no-goods that are lazy and lack better things to do. Now stealing a seed to take it home, plant it, water it, fertilize and otherwise slave over it for months or years...something does not fit here! A more vile evil would be to distribute vast amounts of my unwanted poppy seeds in unsuspecting neighbours yards, clogging up flowerbeds...I've though about it in my darker moments...

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  13. I confess, I confess ... My son has been known to cross over the road so that people don't know he's with me when I'm "raiding". My ethics are - only take seeds that clearly belong to no-one - eg something that's self seeded outside a garden or that will definitely not be collected by the original planters - eg in roadside flowerbeds. I'd draw the line at garden centres, but in terms of people's gardens, I always ask and have never been refused. Many of the results are now blooming on my balcony!

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  14. I am a sort of a snatcher. I will often talk to the person if it is a garden or flowerbed that belongs to someone. Sometimes they have no idea that you can collect seeds and then replant them (I swear) and are happy for the lesson. Sometimes you can trade. I already have lots of seeds for fall.

    Someone did snatch several of my purple bean pods this year and that was heartbreaking because my plant didn't produce very many and I was counting on all I could get.

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  15. I always ask, and in every Garden Center, they've always said to go ahead and take them. Most seeds are attained by trades or through Master Gardener meetings. The problem is not in the acquistion, it's collecting and not planting!
    Aiyana

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  16. I really enjoyed your post!!

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  17. Hi everyone.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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  18. This post is hilarious. DH and I walk each morning and, although I don't have a garden, I now find myself noticing all those seed heads just within reach of my fingertips :)

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  19. Oh yea, I'm a snatcher! Roadsides mostly, but sometimes at public parking lots. Mostly wildflowers, and never from someone's yard. Fun post!

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  20. Guilty. And the photo you have posted at the top of the post is exactly the latest thing I snatched. (Blackberry lily, isn't it?) ;-)

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  21. Ohiomom,

    You could always snatch them and scatter them in places that need flowers.

    Lisa,

    From your pic I never would have mistaken you for a seed snatcher. You look much too nice to do that. :0)

    Kylee,

    You have a good eye for seed identification.

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