Seed Collection

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Increasing Seed Supply in Ontario

Since 1994, one of FGCA’s core goals has been to increase the supply of high-quality, source-identified seed of Ontario’s native woody species. Source-identified seeds are critical to optimizing forest restoration so that the trees planted live for a long time. This principle is true whether it be one tree in your backyard or 100,000 trees to restore a rural watershed. Learn about the importance of seed source when planting trees.

Eastern white pine cones. Photo by Melissa Spearing.

Certified Seed Collection

Ontario’s Natural Selections is a voluntary, woody plant seed source certification program of the Forest Gene Conservation Association (FGCA). Seeds and plants sold under this label are certified by the FGCA to be from the identified source, so consumers can decide where it will grow best. We focus on the education of consumers, seed collectors and growers for better planting success. Growers adhering to Ontario’s Natural Selections are listed in the Society of Ecological Restoration’s 6th Native Plant Resource Guide for Ontario (2011).

Why Get Certified?

High-quality seed and source documentation (where the seed came from) starts with the collector. Buyers are looking for high-quality seed from collectors trained to a standard set of best practices. Anyone can become certified if they take the time to learn about species characteristics, key aspects of seed quality, and proper collection, handling and documentation of seedlots. CSCs sign a Code of Ethics and Practices.

For those new to seed collection, the FGCA has organized two ways to become educated and certified, in partnership with Forests Ontario.

2-Day CSC Workshop

This workshop is the full CSC curriculum including classroom learning with seed samples and a hands-on experience with an organized seed collection in the local area. In 2019, FGCA also tested live webinar delivery and home-study options prior to the field day. Either way, participants learn about:

  • What it takes to be a seed collector
  • Ontario’s natural forest types and ecological niche of native species
  • Current market demand and major seed buyers/growers
  • Current afforestation and reforestation programs using source-identified seed
  • Flower and seed biology, reproductive cycles and environmental effects
  • Genetic diversity and adaptive variation within species
  • Ontario’s current Seed Zone or Seed Transfer policies
  • Physiological seed quality: cut tests, maturity indicators, insects and disease
  • Seedlot registration information and the Chain of Custody
  • Seed forecasting
  • Safe collection methods
  • Post-harvest conditions affecting quality during field storage and shipping
Collection of Eastern white cedar laid to dry. Photo by Sarah Drabble-Bisgould, OTSP.

Mentoring Workshop

  • Typically one day but future opportunities may exist for extended learning
  • For CSCs that want more experience before handling their own contracts with seed buyers. Trainers review the key objectives of the CSC program but dive deeper into practical aspects of seed collection planning, field storage and shipping.
  • For existing CSCs who want to learn about additional species.
  • For experienced professionals already dealing with seed who want to invest in one day before deciding if full certification is for them.
Forecasting bur oak acorns. Photo by Melissa Spearing.

2020 CSC Workshops

With the risks of COVID-19, we are focused on developing a series of interactive webinars and Google Classroom forum support this winter. If possible, in-person workshops will be planned in 2021-2022 with our partners to serve the needs of local programs, planting agencies and growers, and how far interested participants are willing to travel. Please fill out the form below to be notified of upcoming workshops in your area.

Workshop fees are determined with the host organization and our partners and will be communicated to the CSC waiting list to confirm attendance. Workshops include one Seed Manual per participant and any necessary current resources. After the workshop, CSC registration includes signing the Code of Ethics and passing an open book exam (minimum 70%).

Ontario Tree Seed Zone Map (MNRF, 2010 Directive).

Certified Seed Collector Application

Information to help us get to know you and your interests in seed.
  • Fill out this if your organization is applying to host a CSC workshop.
  • Please enter a number from 1 to 25.
  • This will be the primary means FGCA will contact you about CSC workshops and mentoring opportunities. We do not share or use this email for any other marketing purposes.
  • Please enter a number from 0 to 99999.
  • More About You

  • Please enter a number from 0 to 99999.
  • Check "YES" if you agree to the below statements for yourself and/or organization:
  • If you have any diplomas or work experience already with native tree seed and forestry, please list here. If you are applying for personal interest, list activities you participate in that are relevant:
  • If you are familiar with the current MNRF Tree Seed Zones (map above), please select the ones in FGCA's operating area.
  • Provide nearby cities, townships or places where you frequent (i.e. cottage) you may be able to collect seed, or provide a km distance you are willing to travel to get seed from the address provided.
  • If you are wishing to host a workshop, please describe if you have any funds to cover workshop fees or offer in-kind services (facilities, permission to seed collection areas, etc). This will help us determine costs per participant with you.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Resources for Certified Seed Collectors
Materials provided at CSC Workshop:
Suggested Basic Identification and Propagation Books:
  • Trees in Canada (Farrar 1995)
  • Shrubs of Ontario (Soper and Heimburger 1994), online: shrubsofontario00sope
  • Trees of the Carolinian Forest (Waldron 2003)
  • Growing Trees from Seed (Kock et. al 2008)
  • The Woody Plant Seed Manual (Bonner and Karrfalt 2008), PDF free: https://
  • Your own seed survey book for forecasts and collection records
Typical Tools for Seed Forecasting & Collection:
  • Appropriate field clothes and footwear (no shorts or sandals)
  • Binoculars for forecasting
  • Jackknife, secateurs or cone knife
  • Tarps or shade cloth
  • Measuring cans/pails (10-20L, 40L = standard cone measure)
  • Pole pruners and/or pole hook
  • Tubs and tote bins
  • Rakes
  • Gloves and hand cleaner (for pitch)
  • Burlap bags and linen tags
  • Hand lens for magnifying seed samples
  • Pail and water for float tests
Safety and Emergency Planning Considerations:
  • Physical abilities of participants and site accessibility
  • First aid kit and sun protection, high-visibility clothing
  • Precautions re ticks, poison ivy, allergies, severe weather.
  • Fall-arrest training and harness for ladder work
  • Road and vehicle safety
Access to Natural Areas for Collection:
  • Permission to access and collect from landowner/manager
  • Good viable populations that result in high-quality seed (avoid one lone tree collections)

Seeds of Ontario Trees & Shrubs Manual


FGCA is pleased to offer the Seeds of Ontario Trees & Shrubs manual as part of the CSC workshop or as a standalone reference. This full-colour manual is the result of more than 30 years of input from experienced seed collectors across Ontario. 

To order a copy please contact us. Costs are as follows:

  • $30 + 5% GST as part of the CSC course for new participants (included in CSC registration fees)
  • $30 + S/H + 5% GST current CSCs who need a new manual mailed to them, or for new FGCA members
  • $42 in-person at events (includes 5% GST)
  • $50 + S/H + 5% GST to mail less than 10 copies
  • $40 + S/H + 5% GST to mail more than 10 copies

Seeds of Ontario Trees & Shrubs is a comprehensive introduction for new seed collectors and a field-worthy companion for experienced collectors. The information is based on the practical experiences of current and retiring collectors, with the goal of mentoring a new generation of collectors on how to forecast and collect high quality seed. 

Over 100 of Ontario’s native tree, shrub and vine species have been included. The manual is divided into 3 sections: Basics, Operations and Species. The Basics section contains background information on afforestation, plant biology and assessing seed quality. The Operations section describes forecasting, collecting, field storage and shipping. The Species section is divided by Conifers, Broadleaf Trees, Shrubs and Vines and then by Collection Season (Early, Mid and Late Season) so collectors can better schedule their activities. Within each of the colour-coded collection seasons, species are organized alphabetically by Latin name. Exact collection dates may vary from year to year, but the progressive order of seed maturation across Ontario’s diverse landscape should be reliable. An example of a species profile is below.


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