By Victoria Weldon

Many of us have looked to nature to help us through lockdown, with long walks in local parks and woodland creating a new found appreciation for what is on our doorsteps.

However, when it comes to taking some of that nature back home to enjoy, not everyone is clear on the rules around what can be picked, collected or foraged.

In days gone by, picking wildflowers was a joyful feature of most childhoods, but now many people are wary of taking a posy home in case they are breaking the law.

And in some instances, they are correct.

Picking some protected species – such as bluebells – is illegal, as is uprooting plants or picking them in a protected area such as a nature reserve.

Such offences can attract a fine of up to £5,000 or even imprisonment for up to six months.

However, conservation groups have made it clear that most people collecting a small handful of flowers while out for a walk would be unlikely to face such action as it is not illegal to pick most wildflowers in small numbers for personal use.

Plantlife Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) are encouraging people to enjoy wildflowers while behaving responsibly and only picking blooms when there are plenty of them.

A spokeswoman for SNH said: “Wildflowers are there for us all to enjoy on our lockdown walks and while SNH would not want to discourage people from making daisy chains, or similar activities, we would ask people to respect the countryside and act in a responsible manner when picking wild flowers.

“If possible, it’s good practice to ask the land manager or owner before you pick wild flowers and care should be taken not to pick so many that the flower population is damaged. If there are only a few flowers then we suggest they are better enjoyed by observing rather than picking.

“It is, however, an offence to dig up or remove any wild plant without the permission of the landowner and there are also special protections in place for some more rare or vulnerable species.”

Plantlife has set out some guidelines for enjoying wildflowers and picking them while out and about exercising.

These include only picking from large patches of flowers and picking one flower out of every 20 and never picking from nature reserves or other protected sites.

People should also only pick a small handful of flowers for personal use and avoid trampling on other flowers or vegetation.

Plants should never be uprooted without the landowner’s permission.

Dr Trevor Dines, botanical specialist at Plantlife, said: “There is a prevalent sense that picking wild flowers is a bad thing. Many of us are unsure what’s OK and what’s not and so err on the safe side. Wild flowers don’t have to be out of bounds – and out of our lives.

“Contrary to widespread belief, it is not illegal to pick most wild flowers for personal, non-commercial use. In a similar vein, it’s not illegal to forage most leaves and berries for food in the countryside for non-commercial use.

“Actually, we are very used to picking some species (daisies chains, dandelion clocks, buttercups under the chin) but there are other wildflowers that are also very commonplace. Plantlife has highlighted twelve wild flowers that are easy to identify and OK to pick. Many – like cow parsley, primrose, dog violet and dandelion – are actually increasing.”

A full list of plants to avoid as they are considered protected species can be found at section 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

In Scotland, it can also be considered an offence under common law theft.

Gardening expert Chris Bonnett, from gardening website, said: “You are allowed to pick flowers which are not privately owned or critically endangered – but only one in every twenty, and only from patches where there are lots of flowers, so you leave plenty for others to enjoy.

“You should also leave a substantial amount of the plant to allow it to continue to grow. Don’t ever pick flowers in public parks, community gardens, or on National Trust property or nature reserves. This includes flowers from roundabouts, which are maintained by councils.

“Intentionally picking, uprooting or destroying a plant without permission from the landowner or occupier is an offence, and you should never pick any flower found in the Schedule 8 list of protected plants.”

For guidance on what can and can’t be picked and what the law says, visit

Delightful dozen: Plantlife’s wildflowers you can pick…




Common dog-violet

Greater stitchwort

Cow parsley

Meadow buttercup

Red campion

Oxeye daisy


Common knapweed