We’ve all done it before: picking wildflowers. But is it even legal? I did some research and found the answer* to the question. Spoiler alert: yes, you can still pick wildflowers.
What is the difference between liking and loving? “When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily!” Even though this quote is not from Buddha or Socrates like the internet suggests it is, well, there is certainly some truth to it. Luckily, nature gives us so much, sometimes we can pick flowers and no harm is done.
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According to the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 it is illegal to:
- “Uproot any wild plant without permission from the landowner or occupier” – this means that it is illegal to “dig up” a wild plant that doesn’t belong to you (or, in other words, isn’t growing on your property). Picking any part of the plant is legal, as long as you don’t uproot the entire plant. (The term “uproot” is defined as “to dig up or otherwise remove the plant from the land on which it is growing”).
- Pick flowers from a special conservation site or reserve. This includes National Nature Reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Trust properties.
- Pick any flower that is “highly threatened”. Across the UK, there are several plants, flowers and fungi which are illegal to pick or sell due to their scarcity. The full list can be found here.
- Pick with intention to sell or advertise to sell bluebells or tree lungwort. However, it is legal to pick these plants if you do not intend to sell them.
According to the Theft Act of 1968 it is illegal to:
- Pick cultivated flowers in public parks or gardens as well as plants and flowers growing on land which is maintained by the council (for example roundabouts and grass verges).
- “A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward, or for sale or other commercial purpose”.
So you can forage plants, flowers and mushrooms that are not privately owned or critically endangered – it is not illegal to pick wildflowers for personal, non-commercial use. Good to know: it is also not illegal to forage most leaves and berries for food in the countryside for non-commercial use.
*The information presented in this blog post only applies to the UK. Different rules may be in force in your country, so make sure to look them up before picking wild flowers.