American Wildflowers: The Do’s and Don’ts of Picking Legally

Few natural sights are as beautiful as one of America’s wildflower prairies or meadows. In these stunning landscapes, it can be tempting to pick a handful of wildflowers. But should you? In this article, we’ll explain which wildflowers are illegal to pick in America.

What Wildflowers Are Illegal to Pick in America

Is it Illegal to Pick Wildflowers in America?

Colorful wildflowers growing on a hillside with a mountain in the background in America

While it isn’t completely illegal to pick wildflowers in America, wildflowers are protected by several federal and state restrictions. It’s illegal to pick wildflowers on federal lands without a permit. These areas include National Parks, National Forests, and National Monuments.

It’s also illegal to pick or remove wildflowers from public lands that belong to the state that you’re in. On private land, you can’t pick wildflowers unless you have permission from the landowner. Different states may have slightly different laws regarding wildflowers, so familiarize yourself with the restrictions in your state.

Many wildflowers grow on roadsides across America. However, it’s illegal to pick or remove wildflowers growing on State or county rights-of-way. That means picking wildflowers from the roadside is illegal, especially if you impede or disrupt traffic.

It’s also illegal to pick any wildflowers listed as endangered or protected, regardless of whether you have the landowner’s permission. Each state usually has a list of these protected or endangered species.

Wildflowers need protection because they’re extremely important to local ecosystems. For instance, they provide food for pollinating insects such as bees or butterflies. Wildflower meadows also support other creatures like birds and mammals who eat wildflowers.

Picking wildflowers impacts the environment, especially if you pick an annual species. Annual wildflowers only last for a single year before self-seeding and dying off. By picking the wildflower, you prevent the seeds from being released, which stops new wildflowers from growing in the future.

How to Pick Wildflowers Legally

A wildflower meadow in bloom filled with an array of different colorful flowers

The best way to pick wildflowers legally is to grow them yourself. Thankfully, wildflowers are easy to grow in garden borders or even containers. Growing your own wildflowers allows you to choose the species that you want to pick. Some annual wildflowers can produce several crops of cut flowers.

Most wildflowers need an open sunny location that receives approximately six to eight hours of sunlight daily. Wildflowers also need loose, bare soils that are nutrient-poor and well-draining. Prepare the soil by weeding it thoroughly and raking it over until it’s loose and level.

You can plant most types of wildflowers in spring or fall. When sown in the spring, annual wildflowers can flower within 60 to 80 days of sowing. Many annual wildflowers can bloom for up to four months during late spring and summer.

Biennial and perennial wildflowers won’t flower during their first year. However, perennial wildflowers like coneflowers make excellent cut blooms once they flower in their second year.

Wrapping Up

It’s illegal to pick wildflowers on federal lands without a valid permit. It’s also illegal to pick wildflowers in public lands belonging to the state. Grow wildflowers in your garden if you want to pick them legally.

Contributing Editor | edd@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.

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