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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - June 24, 2008

From: Biloxi, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Federal database on use of wildflowers
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Recently read about wedding planned to reduce typical costs AND "go green." One action the bridal party took was to decorate with wildflowers. I was appalled. So, my question, because apparently..my search so far has revealed..each state may have different laws regarding picking wildflowers. QUESTION: Can you direct me to any national database that "summarizes" the basic regulations BY STATE regarding the harvesting of native wildflowers? (If not, wow!..wouldn't that be a super project for some industrious grad student in botany, biology, ag econ, conservation, etc., etc., etc.??

ANSWER:

Simple answer: No.

Bridal magazines and home decorating publications have to come up with something new to write about constantly. Going green is currently very popular, and decorating with wildflowers, as opposed to non-native flowers that come from greenhouses, is an attractive way to do it. One previous answer we want to refer you to was from a couple who were planning their wedding on land belonging to their families, and, a year and a half in advance, were clearing and preparing to plant wildflowers, as well as planning the date around when those flowers would be in their best bloom. We tried to address the general question of picking wildflowers in this previous answer on wildflowers in Pennsylvania.

Our basic message is that wild plants left where they were growing will continue to be seen and enjoyed by others, will remain to drop seeds, and then reproduce for the future. As long as you are not on private property without permission or in a protected area, certainly it's okay to pick a few wildflowers, but don't pick them all, or destroy them "just for fun." Most of the large fields of wildflowers are on private property, and have remained because the owners have declined to destroy the flowers by mowing or permitting grazing until the flowers have had the opportunity to seed. And since many people planning weddings or otherwise interested in wildflowers probably live in urban areas where large fields of wildflowers are not available, this doesn't seem to us too compelling a problem.

One final point-even if there were laws about picking wildflowers, who would enforce them? The Wildflower Police are not always around with radar and binoculars. No matter what laws there are, there will always be people who abuse Nature in various ways. We can only try to educate people on the value of native plants, and the necessity to preserve and propagate them.

 

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