Can you pick wild flowers? The UK laws for you and your kids

child picking wild flowers

At this time every year, when the meadows and verges along the roads are just bursting into colour, I love to encourage kids to get to know the flowers and perhaps pick a few for pressing.  Pressed flowers are great for adding to nature journals and if you wanted a nice vase of flowers to brighten up a grandparent’s day, some wild flowers would definitely do it.  Whenever I mention it I always get so many people asking about whether it’s actually ok to pick wild flowers or if it’s against the law.  Here’s the deal:

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You are allowed to pick wild flowers in the UK if they are for personal use and you do not pick a protected species.

 

The law on picking wild flowers

There are really two laws that we need to look at when it comes to picking wildflowers in the UK – the Theft act of 1968 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.

 

The Theft Act 1968 states (source):

 

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.

 

This is all the Theft Act states and it’s important to note that some online webpages are also quoting that it is illegal, according to this act, to pick flowers from council-owned land.  This is not what is stated, however, I’d caution people to be aware that it’s probably not good form to go round taking flowers from places that belong to others and especially if we’re picking with children alongside.  Let’s set a good example!

 

The thing is that all land is owned by someone, so no matter what you pick it would be on someone’s land.  Make sure you’re not doing it for commercial gain and be sensible about it is my advice.

 

The next thing to look at is the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 which states (source):

 

Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person—

(a)intentionally picks, uproots or destroys any wild plant included in Schedule 8; or

(b)not being an authorised person, intentionally uproots any wild plant not included in that Schedule,

he shall be guilty of an offence.

 

There is quite a lot in this Act and it’s worth looking over if you’re interested or worried about picking flowers.  One of the most important bits to note is that the illegal part is if you pick or disturb any of the flowers in Schedule 8.  One thing to note is that bluebells are included in this – their latin name is Hyacinthoides non-scripta so please, if you’re heading for a walk in a bluebell wood, leave those well alone.

 

So, in essence, what we have here is that it certainly is not illegal to pick most wild flowers in the UK, but I think there are probably some common sense rules we should apply to this.

 

Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) ARE protected so please do not pick these. 

 

Some common sense tips on picking wild flowers

In order to protect our wildlife let’s look to some common sense tips for picking wildflowers:

 

DO:

  • stick to the 1 in 20 rule.  This means that if there are at least 20 of a specific flower around you’re ok to pick one.
  • always leave enough flowers for other people and wildlife to enjoy
  • take pictures if you aren’t sure
  • have fun!

 

DON’T:

  • dig up flowers from the root
  • be greedy
  • pick from areas like wildlife reserves (they may have bylaws in place that prohibit it)
  • pick flowers on the protected list

 

 

Where’s the best place to pick wildflowers

there are so many places that you could go to pick wildflowers.  Some of my favourite places have been when on a simple nature walk with my kids through some woodland.  Wildflowers will grow anywhere so it’s a good idea to just keep your eyes open for opportunities.  Why not go for a walk with an eye to pick your favourites (following the rules above) and bring them home to identify, draw and then press.

Keep safe when looking for wildflowers and stay away from busy roads, train tracks and anywhere that the public shouldnt be.  Again – common sense!

 

What to do with wild flowers

I think it’s really important that we enjoy the flowers after we’ve picked them so at the very least make sure that you put them in a small container of water and place them in an area that can be seen.

Identifying the flowers is the next step – what did you manage to find?  You may need to get a really good field guide to help identify some flowers, but a kids guide might just be good enough for you all at the start (and avoids overwhelm if I’m honest!).  Here are a couple of books on Amazon that are recommended for anyone looking to learn more about wild flowers (click on the pics to see the item on Amazon).