Seed Sowing

Published on 04 January 2023

Each year staff from Maroondah’s Bushland team collect seed from local indigenous plants for use in various habitat enhancement projects.

Seed is used for various types of projects by Maroondah’s Bushland team including:

  • Nursery propagation for use in revegetation or biodiversity enhancement plantings
  • Direct seeding to increase plant diversity in patches within reserves
  • Seed farming where rare species are grown in containers under favourable conditions, and seed is harvested from them for use in biodiversity conservation
  • Research developing or refining germination and production techniques for rare or difficult to grow species  

When is the best time to collect seeds?

Some indigenous plant species (usually with woody fruit) retain seed on the plant for several years, releasing large quantities after fire.  Fruit of these species can be collected year-round.

Most local plant species produce and release seed each year, typically over late-spring and summer.  This seed must be collected as the seed reaches full ripeness to ensure good germination.  Our first collections begin in October (Epacris impressa), with a peak in mid-December to the end of January, and can continue until late April or May (Bursaria spinosa).  The timing of ripening can vary considerably for many species due to environmental factors such as soil moisture and temperate.

Where are seeds collected from?

Seed collection is performed almost exclusively in remnant bushland managed by Maroondah, however in special cases other sites have been utilised (private property, Melbourne Water or VicTrack land etc.).  In these cases, permission from the managing agency or landholder is always obtained prior to collection.  We also hold a Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) Permit To Take/Keep Protected Flora and can collect from DEECA land.

How are the seeds collected?

Prior to collection, a list of desirable species for upcoming projects is developed, and these are targeted during collection. To ensure broad genetic diversity, seeds are collected from large, healthy natural populations and/or from multiple smaller populations which are combined.

Ripe seed is collected by hand or in buckets, then transferred into paper bags (which allow seed to dry) prior to cleaning. Details of the collection are recorded, including species, location, date, number of plants collected from and the collector.

Care is always taken to minimise trampling of vegetation or disturbance to wildlife, and to prevent transfer of any undesirable seeds (from weeds etc.) to reserves. Care is also taken to adhere to DEECA permit conditions where these apply.  This includes taking no more than 10% of the seed from any one plant and not collecting from populations smaller than 10 individuals.

Collected seed are then dried (damp seed will go mouldy and fail to germinate) and processed into a useable state.  The weight of seed, quality, and other collection details are recorded, and seed stored in an airtight container until use. 

Clean, dry seed of some species (e.g. peas) can be stored for many years, while other species (typically smaller, soft-coated seed such as daisies) rapidly loose viability, and are usually collected and used annually.

Who is permitted to collect seeds?

Successful seed collection demands correct identification of plant species and seed ripeness, as well as knowledge of where target species are found and ripening period.  For this reason, only experienced bushland management staff are used by Council for seed collection, though others with less experience can assist under direction while they build their skills.

Our seed is used by Council or provided to local indigenous nurseries, and is also used in university research projects.  In future, we hope our seed will be used in a network of growers to improve genetic diversity of regional plant populations, thereby increasing adaptive capacity.


Because of the harm unmanaged collection can cause to bushland ecosystems, it is illegal to collect seed of indigenous plants from public land without a Permit from the relevant authority or landowner.  This applies to Council managed land, and we request that only authorised collection occur in our reserves. 

Special permits are not required to collect seed from your own private land, but in all cases collection should be environmentally and socially responsible - please follow the FloraBank Guidelines

To collect from Threatened species and Ecological Communities you will need an additional, more restrictive permit from DEECA.

For green-thumbs who are keen to collect and grow indigenous plant seed, there are a few of options to get involved:

  • Buy indigenous plants and use seed they produce to grow your own plants (see Murray Ralph’s book Growing Australian native plants from seed for revegetation, tree planting, and direct seeding (2003) for great tips on the entire process).
  • Council is beginning a program to produce seed of declining indigenous plant species by farming them.  This has benefits including:
    • Reduced impact on bushland from collection activities
    • Good genetic diversity through careful mixing of populations
    • Increase in the amount of seed available for use in biodiversity conservation

Those interested in making a contribution to local biodiversity conservation may wish to take part in this upcoming seed farming program.  The only requirements are a green thumb, the ability to keep container grown plants alive (watering, weeding etc.), and a little space. 

Opportunities to participate in this program will be advertised in this newsletter in the near future, but for more information please contact our Biodiversity Officer, Daniel Flaim by email