Sep 17 2021

More than 200 volunteers collecting tree seed in Scotland!

Thank you to the overwhelming numbers of you who have signed up to our Scotland Tree Seed Collection Project!  We have had an unprecedented response to our recruitment drive for this volunteering role and it just goes to show that so many people are just as passionate and excited about this as we are!


There is a crisis of supply of locally provenant trees to buy in Scotland, particularly in the west.  For our tree planting work on our own sites and with other landowners, we are struggling to get hold of trees that are from seed collected in Scotland from the right tree provenance zones.  Some species, like oak for example, we can buy in the east but not from the west, but other more niche species, like crab apple, hazel, montane willow species and dwarf birch just to name a few, we are struggling to source at all.


We are working hard with the nursery sector to address this issue, but at the same time this is where our army of volunteer seed collectors are playing a vital role in helping us to make a difference.


I’m sure many of you have crunched over acorns on pavements and felt that they are wasted!  You will have seen masses of beautiful rowan berries or an abundance of hazelnuts in woodlands where overgrazing by deer is preventing natural regeneration.  Now we have a chance to rescue this seed and grow it on.


Local provenance is so important in terms of biodiversity and also genetic adaptation.  A tree planted in a geographical area where its seed was collected from, and from where it was grown on in a tree nursery, is far more likely to thrive as it will be adapted to local conditions of soil, rock and climate.


It’s more than this though.  Scotland is home to a large and growing number of small tree nurseries  and community growing projects, and our project is also about supporting these businesses to help them become viable.


The seeds collected by our volunteers will be grown on in these nurseries and we will then buy the trees back for our projects – a win-win all round for woodland creation and restoration as well as for community development and the local economy.


Much of our project is based in the west of Scotland, and fits with the objectives of Saving Scotland’s Rainforest.  Our seeds collected will help to expand woodland in this incredibly important and unique habitat.  To find out more about our own rainforest have a look at the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest’s website.


Our volunteering part of the project has 2 parts, the hubs and the generic oak and hazel collection.



This map shows the hubs, where volunteers will visit regularly and collect a variety of species of tree seeds, and the green area, which is where volunteers are finding their own locations to collect oak and hazel for us.


Seed is posted to Craig Shearer, who is the volunteer manager, who then sorts it and sends it to Forestart, the main seed processing company, ready for its onward journey to tree nurseries.


Craig Shearer has a wealth of experience with collecting and processing tree seed, growing trees and of running tree nurseries so we are very lucky to have him as part of our team delivering the project.


Craig has already been running collection and training days and the seed count is rising.   Just as an example, with one collection day at Ben Shieldaig, Craig and 10 volunteers collected half a kilo of birch seed – enough to plant 150,000  – 200,000 trees!


Here are a few images from our training and collection days so far.






Dunollie Wood in Oban:




Glen Finglas:





Ben Shieldiag:




Crinan Wood:




We’ll keep you posted with our grand tally of seeds by the end of the collecting season – birch and rowan are coming to an end but we still have holly, hawthorn, hazel, oak and alder to collect!


Matilda Scharsach

Scotland Volunteering Development Officer 

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