By Dave Stith
Each Lemon lily flower is capable of producing a fruit that contains as many as one hundred seeds. Depending on the number of flowers some plants will produce only one fruit, while others may produce a dozen or more. Initially the fruit are green and fleshy but eventually dry out and split open to release their seeds. Lemon lily seeds may be collected at this time.
In the wild very few of the thousands of seeds produced each year will grow into a mature, flowering Lemon lily. Our goal is to harvest seeds from the San Jacinto Mountains for restoration while minimizing the impact on the local population. The objective is to collect seeds from as many plants as possible without depriving any individual plant the opportunity to reproduce naturally. A good rule of thumb is to collect less than 10% of the seeds from any location. If the method described here is adhered to then that limit will not be exceeded.
If a plant has produced only a single fruit then no seeds are collected from it. If a plant has more than one fruit then a few seeds are collected from one of the fruit. If a plant has more than ten fruit then collecting the contents of one entire fruit is permissible. In no case should the contents of more than one fruit ever be collected from any one plant.
Some, perhaps many, lilies will be out of the collector’s immediate reach. Bypassing these plants will avoid injury both to the collector and to other plant species that may be trampled in the collection effort. At the time of collection there may be lilies whose fruit are still green and not ready to cast their seeds. It is imperative to leave these plants untouched to disperse their seeds later in the season.
Know where you are collecting. Some private property owners are fortunate to have Lemon lilies growing on their tracts. Please be good neighbors and do not trespass. The vast majority of Lemon lilies are now found in protected jurisdictions such as Wilderness, National Forest, or State Park lands. Collecting Lemon lily seeds may be prohibited or require a permit. This prevents collecting from a site deemed too sensitive for harvesting as well as multiple collections from a single area.
I cannot emphasize enough. Collect only seeds. Do not cut flowers, and never, ever dig up a bulb!