Help pollinators by growing native trees from seed
With the beautiful autumnal colours starting to appear, this is the perfect time to start collecting seeds from our native trees. The Rowan, Hawthorn and Elder berries are looking splendid this autumn and the flowers from these native trees are a valuable food source for our pollinators in the spring.
Collecting and growing seeds from healthy trees in Ireland is the best way to ensure that local trees can flourish and gaps are restored with native species. This is especially important at a time when trees and native plants are under attack from imported pests and diseases.
If you’re interested in collecting seeds it is important to know when to pick or gather. If you collect too early the seeds may not have had time to fully mature but wait too long and the birds might have eaten them all. The Hawthorn and Rowan are looking vibrant on the trees just now. If you get to know your local area you can watch the berries develop and know when to collect.
Please remember when collecting berries, it is important to keep in mind that some species rely on them for food, so pick sparingly, leaving plenty for birds, insects and mammals to feast on.
How to collect native tree seeds
You may develop your own technique on how to extract the seed from the berries. It can be a messy process of mashing, scraping and cleaning to extract the seed, which can then be stored at the back of your fridge or stratified outside in a big flowerpot.
This cold storage is our way to mimic the natural process of breaking seed dormancy, also known as stratification. Some seeds will need to be stratified, don’t worry this doesn’t need fancy equipment and can be done at home with a few pieces of basic equipment.
Just check what pre-treatment your berries need, for example Rowan need 1 winter and Hawthorn need 2 winters. Following this the seeds can then be sown in the Spring to become native tree saplings for your garden or farm.
If the tree you want to collect from is on private land, remember you’ll need to ask permission from the landowner.
Hawthorn (Whitethorn) berries, also known as Haws
Want to find out more?
There are several good sources of information on how to collect seeds, here’s some tips from The Conservation Volunteers, based in the UK https://treegrowing.tcv.org.uk/grow/collecting
You can also download their lovely Autumn Seed Harvest handbook https://treegrowing.tcv.org.uk/grow
The UK Tree Council also have a lovely guide on Growing Trees from Seed https://treecouncil.org.uk/take-action/seasonal-campaigns/seed-gathering-season/
To double check which trees and shrubs are native to Ireland, go to The Tree Council of Ireland https://www.treecouncil.ie/native-irish-trees
By Ruth Wilson, Farmland Officer, All-Ireland Pollinator Plan