Volunteering for Wild Seed Collection: A Primer

By Evan Lasley and Sophie Linden, June 2023

The 2023 field season of wild seed collection is here! Between May and September each year, the Willamette Valley Seed Collection team works to scout and collect wild seeds from both common and endangered plants native to the region. Wild seed collections are used in a variety of seed amplification and habitat restoration projects geared towards the conservation of common workhorse species native to the Willamette Valley, as well as the conservation of rare and uncommon species of the region.

In 2022, our team contributed to the collection of forbs and grasses for projects including gene banking for the Bureau of Land Management’s  Seeds of Success program, the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly Recovery Project, site-based restoration projects, seed amplification at the IAE farm, species-recovery efforts, and our regional Willamette Valley Native Plant and Coastal Native Seed Partnerships. 

Our target species list last year included over 80 species, including American vetch (Vicia americana), Cutleaf daisy (Erigeron compositus), Riverbank lupine (Lupinus rivularis), Tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), as well as species of concern such as Whitetop aster (Sericocarpus rigidus).

This year, we are getting started with our new target species list, and scouting for collection sites begins next month!

Are you interested in learning more about wild seed collection and the key grasses and forbs that power our local and regional ecosystems? Reach out to us at [email protected] and let us know!

Some notes on seed collection volunteer opportunities to keep in mind:

  • Wild seed collection is highly dependent on plant phenology—i.e. the periodic nature of plant life cycles and how they are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate and habitat factors . 
  • Due to these constraints, seed collection activities are often scheduled on shorter notice , and we are seeking volunteers who can be flexible with the time they contribute. 
  • Seed collection activities often require us to travel off-trail in order to identify populations of each species. We ask potential volunteers to be aware of the physical requirements of the work!

We look forward to sharing more updates on the field season over the summer. Thank you to our partners with the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Parks, USDA NRCS, The Nature Conservancy, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, City of Eugene, City of Corvallis, Greenbelt Land Trust, Lane County Parks, Linn County Parks and Recreation, Benton County, Portland Metro, and many others for their generous support, and to all of you for helping us preserve and bank the seeds we need to restore the ecosystems we all call home.