A 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.