Go on a nature walk and collect wild seeds

Hunting for and collecting plant seeds from the wild to sow and grow in your own garden is really fun.

A line of people walking down a path with shrubbery either side at RSPB Arne during winter.
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Seeds you find in your local area will probably thrive in your garden, and you’ll increase habitat and food for wildlife too. Plus, it’s free.

By autumn, the most common seeds to find are tree seeds, such as acorns and hazelnuts, and flowering plants with stiff stems such as teasels. Oaks and Hazels will eventually grow into big trees, but they can be happy growing in a pot for many years. When they get too big, maybe you have a community scheme nearby that will plant it out for you?

It’s important to collect seeds from public places (so you’re not pinching someone’s seeds!) and only when you are sure what the plant is and that it isn’t invasive. Only collect a few seeds - you won't need many. Plus, don't take from sites protected for wildlife.

How to find wild seeds

Start by finding a parent tree in a public park, hedgerow or woodland alongside a public footpath, and then look either on low hanging branches or on the ground beneath. Can you find any of these?


A familiar lozenge-shaped seed about the size of a marble, with a little knobbly cap on one end. Acorns are usually bright green or brown.

Acorns come from oak trees, which have pretty, round-lobed leaves. They’re very common in the UK, and are often found in fields, hedgerows and parks.

Jays create secret stores of acorns for the winter!

A lone Jay perched on a moss covered log with an acorn in it's mouth.


Round seeds, with a soft pointed end. Hazelnuts are about the size of a marble, and have a soft, leafy crown.

Hazel trees are very common in mixed woodland. They have lots of thin, straight stems with pale bark. The leaves are round with a pointy tip, and little serrations around the leaf. The leaves are soft and furry, so give them a stroke!

Dormice love to snooze in Hazel trees.

Dormouse peeking out from behind a lichen covered tree stump.

Field Maple seeds

Characteristic helicopter seeds. Field maple seeds come with two seeds stuck together, with a large, flat wing on either side. They’re pale green, tinged with pink or brown.

Field Maple is a common hedgerow tree in the UK. It has dark green, small leaves, with five rounded lobes and rounded teeth.

Field Maple can often be confused with Sycamore, which is not suitable for collecting and planting.

See below for a comparison of the two – Sycamore with its much larger leaf and seed on the left and Field Maple with its relatively tiny leaf and seed on the right:

Teasel seeds

Head to wilder areas along hedges or open areas in fields and woodland to find teasel plants.

Teasels will be brown and crispy, with their 6-foot high flower stems looking like prickly hedgehogs.

Pop your paper bag over the seed head, turn it upside down and give it a good shake to dislodge the seeds into your bag.

Beware the stems are quite spiky so you may need to wear a glove!

A lone Goldfinch perched on the seedhead of a dried teasel, pulling the fluffy seeds out with their beak.

Get in the seed-sharing spirit

Do you know your neighbours or people in your local community? Why not ask if you can collect some seeds from their gardens, or even set up a local seed swap.

How to sow wild seeds

Larger seeds such as acorns can be pushed into a little pot of peat-free compost or garden soil – sow them to about three times their depth. Give them a drink of water and leave them outdoors to germinate. It’s best to sow acorns immediately, as they're less likely to germinate once they've dried out.

Smaller seeds such as teasel seeds can be sprinkled thinly onto a pot of peat-free compost or garden soil, and lightly covered with a little more compost. Water them in, and leave them to germinate outside. When they’ve formed a small rosette of leaves, you can pot them up into a larger pot, or plant them in the garden. They’ll flower in their second year.

How to store seeds

If you don't want to sow your seeds straight away, you can simply store them in the paper bags you collected them in. Pop the bags in a cool, dark and dry place.

You can also store them in the fridge, although it’s best to put them in an air-tight container, with a little packet of silica gel (you can reuse ones that often come in shoe boxes) or some dried rice.

Getting the family involved?

This activity counts as the Trees, Leaves and Seeds Wild Challenge activity if you are doing it as a family group.

This is a Nature On Your Doorstep activity which can also be completed as part of Wild Challenge. Want to take on the challenge and go for Gold? Each action you take for nature brings you a step closer. Here’s how.