A Challenging Project
Many people have asked me about collecting plants in the wild for their landscapes. It’s a bad idea. Plants from the wild are acclimated to special soil conditions. They rarely survive transplanting. When you move plants from a wild location, you must babysit for them for months before they can grow well on their own. Plants cultivated in a nursery are grown in containers for years, so the shock of being moved to a new location is minimized. Collecting plants is the wild is too much trouble with little chance of success.
With nursery-cultivated plants, you can be sure of performance. A Dogwood collected in the wild might not bloom the first fifteen or twenty years after you plant it! A Red Maple can be an ugly Brown Maple when collected in the wild, instead of a reliable, fiery red. There is no guarantee of plant performance when pulling wild-grown seedlings.
Once you experience trying to keep a collected plant alive, you’ll discover just what a terrific bargain it is to purchase container plants from a nursery. There is a lot of work that goes into raising little baby plants into nice, dense, full specimens capable of being transplanted successfully! But why wait to learn the hard way? Save your time and money and pat yourself on the back for getting a nursery-grown product.
When is it okay to collect in the wild? When you are part of a legitimate plant rescue, it makes sense. If you are doing a private restoration project, collecting small plants within the project site to use in disturbed areas, it can be practical. Collecting seeds from wild plants is an alternative that mitigates the transplant issues, but still leaves a lot of time and labor to the collector as they attempt to keep young seedlings alive.
For large-scale ornamental landscape plantings, use cultivated container plant material. Collecting wild plants used to be the only method to source native restoration plantings, but there are good, responsible wholesale suppliers for ecological mitigation vegetation in the market now. Using native plant material collected in the wild is not practical and can result in expensive losses.