How to Collect Tree Seeds


Trees provide height and interest in many landscape designs, as well as screens for privacy and hedgerows for wind protection. Although gardening centers and nurseries sell many varieties of potted trees, you can enjoy growing trees from seeds. Collecting seeds from native trees ensure varieties suitable for your climate and soil conditions. The method for collecting seeds depends on the varieties of trees selected for propagation.

Step 1

Select tree varieties growing in your area for seed collection. Avoid taking seeds from trees farther than 100 miles from your planting site. Consider the soil on your planting site and select seeds from trees that thrive in the same type of soil. Select healthy specimens for harvesting seeds.

Step 2

Observe your selected trees regularly during late summer and fall to determine the correct time for collecting ripe seeds. Most trees produce seeds at this time. A few varieties, such as slippery elm and red maple, go to seed during April, May and June. The majority of trees, including fir, cedar, ash, beech, walnut and oak, produce seeds between September and November in most areas.

Step 3

Gather seeds as they begin to fall from the trees. Place a sheet of plastic or cloth under the limbs of the trees to catch seeds. Check for fallen seeds regularly in areas where squirrels, mice and other animals compete for seeds. Separate healthy seeds from diseased and deformed ones. Toss out any seeds that show signs of worms or rodent damage. Remove seeds from the fruit of fruit-bearing varieties by separating fruit pulp from seeds and gently washing seeds.

Step 4

Set cones out to dry. Fir, cedar, pine and other varieties that produce cones require adequate drying time before seed removal. Allow cones to set in a sunny, dry location for a couple of months. Speed up the drying time by placing them in a kiln set to a temperature between 110 and 130 degrees F. The seeds inside the cones become dry and loose when done drying.

Tips and Warnings

  • Only collect seeds from native varieties for optimum success. Avoid taking seeds from hybrid trees. These varieties do not grow true from seeds.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic or cloth sheet


  • University of Wisconsin Extension: Growing Wisconsin Trees From Seed
  • University of Minnesota: Collecting Minnesota Ash Seed
  • Plant Genetic Resources Preservation Program: Collection and storage of ash (Fraxinus) seed
Keywords: tree seeds, collect seeds, growing trees

About this Author

Laura Dee is a writer, artist, and the co-owner of Wallace & Wallace Copywriting,an online business which specializes in providing marketing materials and copy to various companies. She has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and is currently working on a series of childrens' picture books.