En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
1 rating

Sunday - July 10, 2011

From: 12419, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Laws
Title: Is it legal to pick wildflowers from the roadside in NY?
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Hi, Is it legal to pick most wildflowers from the roadside in upstate NY? Thanks!


As far as I could determine (and I did a lot of searching), it is not illegal to pick wildflowers from the roadside in New York.  There are, however, some wildflowers that are illegal to pick and some places it is illegal to pick or destroy any plant in New York.

The wildflowers that are not legal to pick are those that are listed in the Protected Native Plants Program.  New York created the Protected Native Plants Program in 1989 to protect plants that are "endangered, threatened, rare or exploitably vulnerable".  You can see a list of these plants in 6 NYCRR 193.3.  As quoted on the NY Department of Environmental Conservation page:

"It is a violation of the Environmental Conservation Law §9-1503 to collect or destroy listed plants without the permission of the landowner. The regulation gives landowners additional rights to prosecute people who collect plants without permission."

There is also a list of Federally Protected Plants that are found in New York State.

The places you will be prosecuted for collecting or destroying any plants are in New York State Parks or Historic Preservation areas.  In state parks it is one of the "Prohibited Activities" listed in New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation Rules and Regulations:

Part 375.l(e): "Injury to property. No person shall make an excavation on or injure, destroy, deface, remove, fill in, tamper with or cut any real or personal property, tree or other plant life."

Even though picking wildflowers that aren't on the State or Federal list of protected plants from the roadside won't result in prosecution, activities associated with collecting wildflowers might result in problems for you.   Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Be sure you are not on private property collecting flowers.   You could be cited for criminal trespass.
  2. Be sure to park safely off the roadway on the same side as the flowers.  Don't cross the highway on foot.
  3. Don't park where there are signs prohibiting parking.  Follow all traffic laws.
  4. Don't dig up large clumps.  Take only a modest amount of wildflowers, leaving plenty of flowers to reseed the area.

Remember that, in general, wildflowers don't last very well as cut flowers.  Flowers captured on camera will last a lot longer!




More Plant Laws Questions

Transferring a palm tree from Florida to Pennsylvania from Reading PA
April 06, 2012 - Is it legal to transport a small palm tree (12" high) from FL to PA?
view the full question and answer

Rescue of roadside plants in Ashe Co.
October 27, 2011 - I live in a wooded area off of a dirt road that is going to be widened and paved by the state. There are many native plants and shrubs growing on the side of the road in areas that will soon be pavem...
view the full question and answer

Critter-Proof Native Plants for Virginia Lawn
April 02, 2015 - We live in a gated community that was part of the Wilderness Battlefield during the Civil War. Our home is on a narrow lot, fully treed except for a postage stamp-sized lawn at lake side. We have de...
view the full question and answer

Weed Laws
March 20, 2004 - Help! My neighborhood wants to mow down my native landscape! Can you suggest a resource regarding city regulations and native plant landscaping?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen that Grows to Three Feet in Michigan
May 22, 2014 - I have searched your site and canít find what I need. I live in the middle of Michigan. I need a shrub that stays green year round and only grows to 3 feet or less.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center