Seed Harvest

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Shooting Star Seeds

Shooting Star Seeds

When is the best time to harvest seeds?  The secret? A dry day, after the dew dries off.  Afternoon is better than morning.

Throughout the growing season, observe your plants as they bloom and then set seed.  Any flower that was will eventually have a seed to harvest in its place.  Early spring ephemerals may set seed in May or June.   Look for signs that the seeds are maturing.  For example, Shooting Star seed capsules should turn brown some, such as the picture on the right side of this page.  If the stem is turning brown, that is also a sign that the seeds are ready to be harvested.  Wild Geranium and Columbine seeds will also mature in early summer, shortly after the flowers have stopped blooming.  Sedges will flower and set seed throughout the spring and summer, so be observant and collect when you see the signs.  Goldenrod, asters and most of the grasses, being later to bloom, may not be ready to harvest until September or even late October.   As you collect seeds, place them into a brown paper bag, label the bag with the plant name and date and store in a dry area.

The Barrington Area Library hosted a How to Collect and Sow Native Plant Seed webinar on September 9, 2020 which was recorded and can be viewed on youTube. In this webinar, Sarah Michehl from The Land Conservancy of McHenry County discusses collecting and sowing native plant seeds. This is a great resource to learn basic seed identification, collection methods and timelines, and tips on how to sow.

The Lake County Seed Collection Guides are a wonderful resource for collecting native seed. These guides were developed by Dale Shields and Kelly Schultz from the Lake County Native Seed Nursery and have been submitted and posted with the Field Museum Field Guides collection. Here are links to these guides:
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Woody Plants
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Spring Woodland Forbs
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Summer Woodland Forbs
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Summer Wetland Grasses and Kin
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Summer Wetland Forbs
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Summer Prairie Forbs
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Summer Grasses and Kin
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Asters and Goldenrods
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Fall Woodland Forbs
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Fall Wetland and Forbs
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Fall Grasses and Kin
Illinois – Lake County Seed Collection Guide – Fall Prairie Forbs

The Field Museum Field Guide, Illinois – Seed Heads of Common Native Plants of the Tallgrass Prairie Region is also a great resource to show you what the common native plant seed heads look like at maturity.

You can find a great list of Seed Collecting Dates on the Pleasant Valley Conservancy website.

One of our chapter’s most popular events is the Annual Seed Exchange. Our 2021 Seed Exchange will take place on Saturday, November 13th from 10am to 1 pm at The Growing Place in Aurora. For more information on the event click here. You are welcome to bring your packaged and labeled seeds to exchange for others.  FYI, if you manage a nature preserve, be aware that members and friends bring seeds collected in their home gardens, so we cannot document the provenance of these plants, be it from a local nursery or somewhere outside our growing zone.

The following native species have been offered at our Seed Exchange in recent years.   Habitat groupings follow those given on the Illinois Wildflowers website.  Some plants can do well in more than one habitat type.  Refer to for detailed information.


Actaea rubra – Red Baneberry

Allium tricoccum – Wild Leek

Aquilegia canadensis – Wild Columbine

Arisaema triphyllum – Jack-in-the-Pulpit 

Cimicifuga racemose – Black Cohosh

Heracleum maximum – Cow Parsnip

Podophyllum peltatum – Mayapple

Polygonatum commutatum – Solomon’s Seal  

Scrophularia marilandica – Late Figwort

Smilacina racemosa – False Solomon’s Seal

Solidago flexicaulis – Zigzag Goldenrod

Solidago ulmifolia – Elm-leaved Goldenrod


Allium cernuum – Nodding Onion)

Allium stellatum – Cliff Onion

Allium tricoccum – Wild leek

Amorpha canescens – Lead Plant

Antennaria neglecta – Pussytoes

Arnoglossum atriplicifolia – Pale Indian Plantain

Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca – Common Milkweed

Asclepias verticillata – Whorled Milkweed

Baptisia alba macrophylla – White Wild Indigo

Baptisia australis – Blue Wild Indigo

Baptisia bracteata – Cream Wild Indigo

Cacalia atriplicifolia – Pale Indian Plantain

Camassia scilloides – Wild Hyacinth

Campanula Americana – Tall Bellflower

Cirsium discolor – Pasture Thistle

Coreopsis palmata – Prairie Coreopsis

Dalea purpurea – Purple Prairie Clover

Desmanthus illinoiensis – Illinois Bundle Flower

Dodecatheon meadia – Shooting Star

Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower

Echinacea pallida – Pale Purple Coneflower

Eryngium yuccafolium – Rattlesnake Master

Eupatorium altissimum – Tall Boneset

Eupatorium serotinum – Late Boneset

Gentiana andrewsii – Bottle Gentian

Gentiana flavida – Cream Gentian

Geum triflorum – Prairie Smoke

Helianthus autumnale – Sneezeweed

Helianthus occidentalis – Western Sunflower 

Liatris aspera – Rough Blazing Star 

Liatris pychnostachium – Prairie Blazing Star

Liatris spicata – Marsh Blazing Star

Lupinis perennis – Wild Lupine

Monarda fistulosa – Bergamot a/k/a Bee Balm

Opuntia humifusa – Eastern Prickly Pear

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium – Slender Mountain Mint

Pycnanthemum virginianum – Common Mountain Mint

Ratibida pinnata – Yellow Coneflower – a/k/a Gray-headed Coneflower

Rudbeckia triloba – Brown-eyed Susan

Rudbeckia hirta – Black-eyed Susan

Ruellia humilis – Hairy Wild Petunia

Silphium perfoliatum – Cup Plant 

Silphium integrifolium – Rosin weed

Solidago rigida – Stiff Goldenrod 

Solidago speciosa – Showy Goldenrod 

Sympyotrichum ericoides – Heath Aster

Symphyotrichum lateriflorus – Calico Aster

Symphyotrichum leave – Smooth Blue Aster

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae – New England Aster

Symphyotrichum ptarmicoides – Upland White Aster

Tradescantia ohiensis – Ohio Spiderwort

Verbena stricta – Hoary vervain

Vernonia missurica – Missouri Ironweed

Vernonia fascilulata – Narrow-leaved Ironweed

Veronicastrum virginianum – Culver’s Root


Cassia hebecarpa – a/k/a Senna hebecarpa Wild Senna

Cassia marilandica a/k/a/ Senna marilandica – Maryland Senna

Clematis virginiana – Virgin’s Bower (vine)

Eutrochium purpureum – Sweet Joe Pye Weed

Gentiana alba – Cream Gentian a/k/a Gentiana flavida

Lilium superbum – Turk’s Cap Lily

Napaea dioica – Glade Mallow

Rosa blanda – Smooth rose

Thalictrum dasycarpum – Purple Meadowrue


Asclepias incarnata  – Swamp Milkweed, a/k/a Marsh Milkweed

Bidens coronata – Tall Swamp Marigold

Cassia hebecarpa – a/k/a Senna hebecarpa Wild Senna

Cassia marilandica a/k/a/ Senna marilandica – Maryland Senna

Chelone glabra – White turtlehead

Eutrochium maculatum – Spotted Joe Pye Weed 

Helenium autumnale – Sneezeweed

Hibiscus moscheutos – Swamp Rose Mallow

Hypericum pyramidatum – Giant St. John’s Wort

Impatiens pallida – Yellow Jewelweed

Iris virginica shreve – Southern Blue Flag

Lobelia cardinalis – Cardinal Flower 

Lobelia siphilitica – Great Blue Lobelia

Physostegia virginiana – Obedient Plant

Sanguisorba Canadensis American Burnet 

Vernonia fasciculata  – Narrow-leaved Ironweed 


Betula Nigra – River birch

Calycantuss floridus – Carolina Allspice – Shrub, Native to SE United States

Celtis occidentalis – Hackberry tree

Cephalanthus occidentalis – Button Bush

Clematis virginiana – Virgin’s Bower 

Diospyros virginiana – Persimmon tree

Euonymus atropurpurea – Eastern Wahoo – Shrub

Gymnocladus dioicus – Kentucky Coffee Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera – Tulip Tree

Ostrya virginiana – Ironwood Tree

Prunus americana – Wild Plum – Small tree

Prunus virginiana –  Chokecherry – Shrub

Rosa blanda – Early Wild Rose – Shrub

Rosa setigera – Illinois Rose – Woody Vine

Viburnum trilobum – American Cranberry Bush


Agropogon gerardii – Big Bluestem – G

Bouteloua curtipendula – Side Oats Grama – G

Carex davisii – Davis sedge, a/k/a Awned Graceful Sedge

Carex grayi – Bur Sedge

Carex lacustris – Lake Sedge

Carex muskingumensis – Palm Sedge

Carex vulpinoidea – Fox Sedge

Eragrostis spectabilis – Purple Love Grass

Diarrhena americana – Beak Grass

Hystrix patula – Bottlebrush Grass

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