Washington Native Plant Society Policy On Collection and
Sale Of Native Plants
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Collect discreetly so as not to encourage others to collect
indiscriminately. Be prepared to explain what you are doing and why.
- Avoid unnecessary damage to sites and their aesthetic values. Avoid
frequent visits to the same sites.
- 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.
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.
- Collecting along trails and in other areas of high impact is strongly
- 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.
- 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.
- If you encounter a plant with which you are unfamiliar, assume it is rare
and exercise one of the following options:
- If the population is small and it is possible to return to the site,
photograph the plant for identification and return for collecting only if the
collection would add significantly to scientific knowledge.
- If the population is small, but the site would be difficult to return to,
collect at most a single specimen.
- If the population is large, follow the guidelines below.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When discussing your research results, describe conservation considerations
underlying your collecting techniques.
- WNPS discourages the purchase of wild-collected plants (or plant parts) of
rare or protected taxa, even for research, teaching, or herbarium specimens.
- 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.
- 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.
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© Copyright 1996 Washington Native Plant Society, All Rights Reserved
Last Modified March 6, 1996