Foraging for leaves and flowers to use as decorations – or as edible treats – is a wonderful way to bring us closer to nature. Teaching ourselves to notice – and identify – the plants and flowers we encounter on woodland walks or in the hedgerows enhances our appreciation of the natural world, as well as being a fun (and free!) way to embellish our homes. But if we want to forage, we need to understand the do’s and don’ts and to make sure we do no damage to ourselves or the environment. Read on for our quick guide to how to forage responsibly.

1.Obey the rules

Managed areas may have good reasons for discouraging foraging, so if you are in a nature reserve, park or woodland area that is cared for by a wildlife trust, look out for signs that explain what you are and are not allowed to do. And do follow the rules – they have been drawn up to protect plant and animal life.

2. Stay safe

Never eat a mushroom or berry unless you are absolutely sure you have identified it correctly. It could be poisonous – or even deadly. And be sure to keep your hands away from your mouth and wash your hands before eating if you have been touching plants. You might also want to wear sturdy gloves to protect delicate skin from thorns.

3. Don't be greedy

Only collect flowers, leaves, seeds, berries or fruits where you can see they are growing in abundance. Many birds rely on these plants for food, so you need to protect their larders. It’s also important that plants and species are able to reproduce – and stripping them of seeds will curtail their natural cycle and make it impossible for them to spawn the next generation. In the case of mushrooms, this means only taking them if they have opened their caps and therefore dropped their spores.

4. Take care

Be careful where you walk – trampling indiscriminately (or letting dogs loose) across wild areas can damage or kill plants. Also, if you are cutting a branch or stem, take care not to harm the host plant. Using secateurs to ensure a good clean cut is much better than pulling, tearing or snapping.

5. Let it be

It is illegal to dig up or remove a plant from the land on which it is growing without permission from the landowner or occupier – so don’t be tempted to take home plants to propagate in your garden. Instead, restrict your foraging to berries, leaves and branches that can regenerate once you have gone.

6. It may need your protection

It’s important that you can identify the plant you are picking to ensure the survival of rare specimens. Some sites, in particular ancient woodlands, provide a habitat for rare plants, while other plants are protected by law. So if in doubt, leave it alone.

Our founder, Rosebie Morton, set up The Real Flower Company to grow flowers (and in particular roses) as nature intended, and one of our key missions is to run our farms in a fully sustainable way. This means we take care to protect and enrich our soil and to provide a welcoming habitat for bees and other beneficial insects – as well as chickens, ducks and other wildlife too!

You can browse our collections of bouquets, wreaths and arrangements here – and be assured that all our plants are nurtured from stem to vase in a way that preserves their essential beauty and aroma and protects the environment around them.