How to Collect Forest Plants for Garden


Collecting plants from a forest is a good way to bring native plants into your garden and landscape. However, certain laws might apply to your area that might prevent you from collecting plants in the wild, so be aware of any laws pertaining to collecting wild plants. It is best to move plants from their native habitat in the fall or winter. However, it is difficult to identify many plants without seeing the leaves that have fallen off in cooler weather. If you are unable to identify the plants in the winter, visit the forest in the summer and identify the plants you like and mark them by tying a piece of plastic tape around a branch. Do not leave the plastic tape in the forest after removing the plant.

How to Collect Forest Plants for Garden

Step 1

Locate plants in the forest that you wish to collect. Clear the area around the plant of leaves and debris that could harbor snakes or biting bugs so you have room to work.

Step 2

Use a sharp-shooter shovel with a long narrow blade to cut the roots around the plant at a distance of one-half the length the plant is tall. For example, if the plant is 2 feet tall, cut the roots at a distance of 1 foot away from the base of the plant. Work in a complete circle around the plant severing all the roots of the plant.

Step 3

Use a garden shovel to dig under the plant and cut any roots that are under the plant. Dig down as far as you can. If the plant has a long tap root, try to remove the entire root under the plant if possible. If you cannot dig to the bottom of the tap root, dig as far down as you can, then cut the tap root.

Step 4

Pull the plant out of the ground onto a tarp and wrap the tarp around the roots so they will not dry out. Place the tarp-covered root base into a bucket or container to transport from the forest to the garden. Plant your forest plant in the garden at the same level it was planted in the forest and in the same amount of shade.

Tips and Warnings

  • Permission is required to collect plants in most state and national forests. Do not collect endangered species of plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden shovel
  • Sharp-shooter shovel
  • Forest plant
  • Bucket or container
  • Tarp


  • Wildlfower Society: Code of Conduct
  • University of Florida Herbarium: Florida Plant Collecting
  • Montana Native Plants: Guidelines for Collecting native Plants
Keywords: collecting native plants, forest plant collection, harvesting wild plants

About this Author

Based in Rockdale Texas, Jim Gober has been writing garden-related articles for 25 years. His articles appear in several Texas newspapers including The Rockdale Reporter, The Lexington Leader, The Cameron Herald and The Hearne Democrat. He is a Master Gardener and Certified Texas Nursery and Landscape Professional. He holds bachelor degrees in English Writing from St. Edward's University and Finance from Lamar University.