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Avoid Arrest: Don’t Pick the Wildflowers!

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Don't pick the wildflowers

The signs of springing are arriving, alternating with an occasional snow storm.  Inevitably, children are drawn to the flowers that bless us with their color this time of year.  If you have a flower bed in your yard, you’ve probably experienced the quickness a toddler can decimate a bed only to hand you a crumpled bouquet as a show of love and kindness.  Unfortunately, wildflowers can suffer at the hands of little ones, and there are laws to protect them.

Many wildflowers are sensitive species, some are even endangered.  State laws protect wildflowers in state parks.  Signs on San Diego reports:

Can picking wildflowers get you arrested?

You’d expect a tongue-lashing for tearing up your neighbor’s flower beds, right? Well, California Code of Regulations 4306 under Title 14 goes a step further when it comes to state parks. If you pick, dig up, kick, drive over, squash, move, molest or, as the code puts it, bum* a wildflower, it’s a misdemeanor charge. The ranger will give you a ticket. (In case you’re wondering, it’s also illegal at national parks.)

*Bumming, in this case, has nothing to do with affecting flower moods: It means “to ruin or spoil.”

Recently, parents in the UK were arrested when their daughters picked flowers.  The Guardian reports:

It may be a while before Jane Errington and her partner Marc Marrengo venture back to their local park for a springtime walk. On Sunday, police were called after their two daughters were seen picking daffodils; the constables informed Errington and Marrengo that they could be arrested for criminal damage…

Wild flowers According to Dominic Price of wild plant protection charity Plantlife, “it is not normally an offence to pick the ‘Four Fs’ – fruit, foliage, fungi or flowers – if the plants are growing wild and it is for your personal use and not for sale.” Dozens of rare or endangered plants – from the lady’s slipper orchid and adder’s tongue, to threadmoss and sandwort – are, however, protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, so pick those and you could face arrest (though you’re unlikely to stumble across too many of them). Whatever you do, don’t drag up the whole plant to resettle it in your own garden – the law firmly forbids the uprooting of any wild plant.

As a teacher and a parent I have a wildflower rule:  we don’t pick them.  We may admire their beauty. If we feel we need to capture this beauty, then we can draw, paint, or photograph the subject.  I’ve had other parents think I am crazy, and I have endured more than one dirty look from my daughter, but I stand by my rule.

Now my daughter even asks before picking a cultivated flower from our yard, and she is often given the Felcos and told to make a beautiful bouquet.  We have a mutual understanding and respect when it comes to flowers.  Wildflowers are safe around my children (and not because I fear arrest).


  1. Kimberly says:

    Texas has a similar law to preserve our bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, and other wildflowers. Lady Bird Johnson is famous for her initiative to save our wildflowers from exintion. The Highway Department schedules mowing the roadsides so that the flowers can bloom and go to seed without being mowed down.

    • Jennifer Lance says:

      I never understood the need to mow highways anyways, let along spray herbicides along them. I suppose it does reduce the risk of fires from discarded cigarettes, but it does nothing for visibility.


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