Why You Shouldn’t Pick Wildflowers

Many wildflowers are fragile and will wilt and die if they are picked. Others are poisonous and should not be touched or eaten. There are few legal limitations to picking wildflowers in many areas. However, ethically and morally, you should not pick wildflowers because of the environmental ramifications. 

Extinction of Species

Picking of wildflowers can lead to the loss of flowers, and even the extinction of certain species. Wildflowers support ecosystems consisting of birds, insects and other wildlife. These animals depend on wildflowers for food, nectar and habitat.

Blue Wood Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)

It is irresponsible to pick wildflowers without any regard for how you will impact these animals. The destruction of natural habitats due to human activity has resulted in an imbalance in many ecosystems worldwide. Many people lack the knowledge and awareness of the benefits of protecting naturally occurring plants in their native regions. 

Reduces the ability of wildflowers to reproduce

Picking wildflowers or uprooting them reduces their ability to reproduce or reseed and thus impacts their long-term survival. When you remove certain wildflowers from their natural habitat, they may not grow in another location.

seeding wildflowers
Photo by Dunk

Native wildflower species have been conditioned over many years to certain climatic conditions. Transplanting them in another area will lead to them dying out. 

Impact on national heritage sites

Cutting wildflowers from forests and national parks is detrimental to national heritage. According to the US Forest Service, wildflowers are significant to national heritage. People will visit forests to see expansive stretches of beautiful wildflowers.

Wildflowers occurring in forests are beautiful and a haven for small animals. It is therefore important that humans avoid disturbing nature by cutting and destroying wildflowers.

It should be enough to take a picture of beautiful wildflowers, and you can keep it as a lasting memory. Do not disturb the beauty of wildflowers. You are ethically obligated to enjoy it while preserving it for others to experience the same beauty of nature. 

You can pick wildflowers for educational or scientific purposes as long as it’s allowed in your local area and it’s not an endangered species. You can contact the appropriate authorities to obtain permission to pick certain flowers and justify your intentions. Do not pick wildflowers to sell them. This is immoral and bad for the environment. 

Some wildflowers are poisonous

Picking some wildflowers could result in serious harm to yourself, children or pets. Find out which wildflowers are poisonous and which are edible.

Is it illegal to pick wildflowers in the UK?

It is not illegal to pick wildflowers for personal use in the UK on public land. The Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 states that it is illegal to uproot any wild plant without permission from the landowner or occupier. This law prohibits uprooting the whole plant from where it is growing. You can pick the leaves, flowers, and fruits of a plant for personal use, as long as you do not remove the plant from the ground. 

The law established certain conservation sites called Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s). You have to obtain permission to pick flowers from these sites from the appropriate regulatory agencies in Britain. 

The Theft Act of 1968 states that “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 steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward, for sale or any other commercial purposes”.

This includes picking flowers from land which you do not own. It is not considered theft if you pick wildflowers from a public park or a neighbor’s property. As long as you have no intentions to benefit financially from the wildflowers, you can pick them at your own pleasure. This applies to wildflowers growing wild. If a person cultivates wildflowers on their land, you must obtain their authorization to pick them. 

Is it illegal to pick wildflowers in the US?

It is not illegal to pick wildflowers in most public places in the US. You can pick flowers in any public space. However, you are prohibited from picking flowers on private land, and on a protected nature area. In addition, you should not pick any wildflowers from protected plants.

It is illegal to pick wildflowers from federal lands such as National forests, parks and monuments. You have to obtain a permit to pick flowers for scientific and educational purposes. If you intend to pick any part of a plant on state and private land, you have to obtain written permission from the owner. Further, you are prohibited from cutting or removing plants growing alongside state highways. 

The US has no universal federal laws that govern the picking or uprooting of wildflower plants. The laws governing wildflower picking are state-specific and are dependent on land ownership laws and the rarity of certain plants.

In Texas, Indiana and Montana, picking wildflowers is legal but it is discouraged. In California, New York, Oregon, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Colorado, picking wildflowers is considered a misdemeanor; you could be fined if caught.  

Some plants are considered endangered species in certain states and thus are illegal to pick. For example, Smooth Coneflower (Echinacea laevigata) is federally endangered and thus illegal to pick. In California, the tree anemone (Carpentaria californica) is a rare shrub that is protected under state law and thus cannot be picked or uprooted. In Wisconsin, the Ontario Trillium (Trillium grandioflorum) is considered fragile and you will be fined $500 for picking its flowers. 

Wildflowers you can pick

1. Red Campion (Silene dioica)

Red campion
Red Campion. Photo by James Kellam.

This plant is native to the UK. It is a great option for cottage gardens and meadows. Red campion produces pink flowers which bloom from late spring to early summer. It is a haven for bees and butterflies. 

  • Thrives in partial shade or full sunlight. 
  • Grows well in well-drained, medium-moisture soils. 
  • USDA hardiness zones 5-8. 

2. Common dog-violet (Viola riviniana)

Common Dog-violet - Viola riviniana
Photo by Color line

Native to Europe and Asia. It produces a blue-violet flower, which blooms from April to June. You can pick its flowers in the UK. 

  • Thrives under full sunlight or partial shade.
  • Grows well in well-drained, moist soils.
  • USDA hardiness zones 3-8. 

3. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelions are a very common flower; you can pick their flowers in the US or UK. The flowers are highly nutritious and contain vitamins A and K. They produce yellow flowers which bloom during spring and fall. 

  • Thrive in full sunlight.
  • Grow well in well-drained soils.
  • USDA hardiness zones 3-9. 

4. Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Photo by Stanze

A perennial flowering plant with white, purple, orange or pink flowers that bloom during the summer and fall. Native to North America and Europe. It is an aggressive grower and you can pick the flowers at your leisure. Deheading is important to ensure a continuous bloom. It has medicinal purposes. 

  • Thrives in full sunlight.
  • Grows well in well-drained, neutral, sandy or loamy soils.
  • USDA hardiness zones 3-9. 

5. Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Photo by Renee Grayson

A semi-evergreen perennial which produces masses of pale yellow flowers. It can be planted in cottage gardens or containers. It is native to Europe and blooms during late winter to mid-spring. 

  • Thrives in full sunlight or partial shade.
  • Grows well in well-drained, moist soils. 
  • USDA hardiness zones 4-8.


While picking wildflowers is not outright illegal, you should not unnecessarily pick flowers in a public space. If you find a beautiful wildflower garden, leave it be. Take pictures or document the moment in any other way, leaving it for others to enjoy. You have an ethical and moral obligation to avoid picking wildflowers.