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As your flowers die, you'll see the seed pods beginning to form. Remember, it takes time for the plant to make its seeds. It has to give each seed a supply of food to keep it going until it has its own roots and leaves and can make its own food. Then it has to provide each seed with a tough seedcoat to protect it until it starts to germinate. So if you want to collect good seeds from your flowers, you have to be patient and give the plant time to complete the job of making seeds. It may take a few weeks, but there is no point in collecting seeds that are not ready as they won't grow. When the seeds are ripe, the plant will stop supplying the seedpod with food and it will go dry and papery, like dead leaves in autumn. Then you can collect the seeds, instead of letting them fall on to the ground.
If you're going to collect seeds from your plants, you have to know what to look for. Different types of plants have different types of seedpods. Lots of members of the Daisy Family (like the Dandelion) don't have seedpods. The seeds just sit on a pad like a pin cushion and wait for the wind to take them away. We all know that Poppy seeds come in a pepper pot with holes round the lid, and peas and beans come in pods. A question people often ask is 'Where are the seeds?' Well, ALL seeds are where the flower was, because the seeds grow at the bottom of the bit that sticks out in the middle of the flower, called the style.
When you start collecting seeds, it's easiest to collect the seeds that come out of the seedpod easily. Columbines are very easy to collect. The seedpod is like five little pea pods stuck together, and when the seeds are ripe, the pods just uncurl. You can see the shiny black seeds inside, so you just need to tip the pod up over a bag or pot and the seeds fall into it. Poppies are just as easy. When the seeds are ripe, they fall out of the holes round the edge of the lid. Most seeds that have closed pods will just fall out when the pods open, so if you wait until they open by themselves so you can see the seeds inside, you'll know that they'll be ripe and you can collect them. Members of the Bellflower Family have neat little pixie hats that go straw-coloured when they're ripe. Their seeds are straw-coloured tiny discs, but they have lots of them. The pods open with three little holes at the stalk end, so they look like tiny lanterns. Don't forget that chestnuts, conkers and acorns are seeds, so you can collect them, too.
When you go out to collect seeds, take some paper bags or envelopes to put the seeds in and a pencil or pen to label them straight away. Don't use plastic bags. If the seeds or seedpods aren't completely dry, they might rot. If the seeds are ripe, they'll probably come out of the seedpods by themselves, and you can sort out the bits of seedpod and spiders and other things that aren't seeds (called 'chaff') and store the cleaned seeds somewhere safe until you're ready to sow them or swap them.
You can use envelopes to store your seeds in. Junk mail often comes with a return envelope which you can use. Remember to write the name of the seed, and perhaps the date, on the envelope. Some people use old plastic film containers or glass baby food jars. If you use these, check the seeds now and again, to make sure they aren't going mouldy. Try to store all your cleaned seeds together, in something like a shoe box or biscuit container, so you can find them when you want them.
As well as keeping your seeds to sow yourself next year, you could also give packets of seeds to other people as presents, or you can swap them with other people to get seeds of something different.
If you're going to swap your seeds or give them away, you might want to use smaller envelopes or tiny plastic bags. There are some designs for envelopes you can cut out and colour in The Seed Site Envelopes section.
If you're looking for something else to do, we now have some cards you can make to help you to recognise some common British wildflowers. Once you've made them, you can take them with on holiday or whenever you go somewhere new, or play a sort of Top Trumps game with your friends. Look on our Wildflowers Page for more details about British wildflowers, or here for how to make the cards.
The next section is a Database (just a fancy word for a chart) of some flowers you might want to grow, with a photo and some information about them.
Click the red links to go to the Seed Envelopes page.
Click the green arrow to go to the Plant Database.