How the Seed Exchange Works

How the Seed Exchange Works

The Seed Exchange is one of the benefits of a NARGS membership and is made possible through the generosity and hard work of many NARGS members. It begins with members collecting seed of plants in their garden or in natural areas. DONATED seed is sent to the INTAKE Manager before November 1st. The Intake Manager enters all the donations into a computer database, verifies the seed name and adds descriptions where needed. Each donor is assigned a donor number, which will be included in the Seed List. 

By mid-November, all the donated seeds are cataloged and the database program generates the seed list numbers. The seeds are shipped to various PACKAGING Chapters and individuals who divide them into individual packets in December. The number of packets done for each seed number varies depending on how many seeds were donated and how many of the species were requested in past exchanges. The finished packets are then sent to the MAIN SEED DISTRIBUTION Chapter before January 1st. 

The Seed List is posted on the NARGS website in mid-December so that the Main Round Distribution Chapter has received the majority of the seed orders from members by the time they start to pick seed orders from early January until the end of January. Members are charged $17 for 25 (non-donors) or 35 (donors) packets of seed and orders from seed donors are pulled first, before any orders from non-donors. ONLY current NARGS members are allowed to order seed.

A surplus seed list of all the seed numbers which remain after the Main Seed Distribution is closed are sent in late February to members who request it and is posted on the website for online ordering on March 1st. Surplus seed orders are filled in March by the SURPLUS SEED DISTRIBUTION Chapter. All members are charged a nominal fee of $10 per 20 packets with the option of requesting up to 100 packets for Surplus seed orders. After that, the remaining seed is sent to various NARGS chapters for distribution to their members.

Seed Exchange Important Dates

  • July - Donation instructions, forms and permits/labels (for international members) included with the Summer issue of the Rock Garden Quarterly
  • October 15 -  Canadian and overseas donation should be sent by this date to allow enough time for APHIS inspection and postal delays
  • October 25 - US donations should be sent by this date to ensure they arrive by November 1 deadline
  • December 1 - requests for print seed lists must be received by this date (see details below)*
  • December 15 - Seed List and web ordering begins 
  • Early January -  Main round order filling begins
  • January 31 - Main round ordering ends
  • March 1 - Surplus seed list and web ordering begins
  • March 17 - Surplus round ordering ends
  • Early April - remaining seed distributed among requesting chapters

Printed Seed Lists

Only members who request a print seed list will be mailed a copy, all other members can access and order from the seed list online when it becomes available each year on December 15th. * If you will need a print seed list mailed to you please use the Contact Us link in the top menu, select "Seed Exchange" for the category and send a message that includes your mailing address. Only a limited number will be available. Please allow up to 2 weeks for delivery.

Printed Surplus Round Seed Order Lists (listing seed numbers only) are mailed only to those members who request it on their Main Round order or by using the Contact Us link in the top menu, select "Seed Exchange" for the category and send message that includes your mailing address by February 28th. 

PDF files of past year's Seed Lists are available on the Past Years Seed Lists page that can be downloaded and printed out.

Advantages of Donating Seed

The NARGS Seed Exchange depends on the donation of seed from all its members. Many of the plants our members wish to grow are often only available from seed exchanges like ours. It is especially important that seeds of rare, highly desirable, correctly named and classic rock garden plants are collected and donated so that these jewels are not lost. Even if you are no longer interested in growing plants from seed you should still collect and donate seed so that others may continue their cultivation. Check out the Seed Exchange Helpful Links page for links to websites and articles pertaining to Seed Collecting & Cleaning, Identification and Germination, that you may find useful.

If you contribute at least 5 different taxa of seed appropriate for the seed exchange you will earn donor status. Donors receive 35 packets of seed, while non-donors receive only 25 in the Main Seed Distribution. Furthermore, all orders from donors are filled before those from non-donors in the Main round as long as the order arrives by early January.  Finally, donors receive the recognition and gratitude of their colleagues! Status as a donor will be determined by the Intake Manager based upon the Unacceptable Seed List.

We would encourage collectors to be aware that rare plants merit special consideration and should not be distributed or propagules taken unless there is sufficient local stock to successfully perpetuate the population. In most cases this means minimal or no collecting.

For information on donating seed see Seed Donation Instructions. More information and Donation forms will also be sent with the Summer issue of the Rock Garden Quarterly.

APHIS Restricted Import List

Canadian and Overseas donor members are restricted in what they can donate to the Seed Exchange by the regulations set by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) (including noxious weeds, parasitic plants, hosts of known pests/diseases, items that require treatment [fumigation] for entry, etc.) and world conventions, such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They must also use the Small Lots Seed Permit and labels which is available from the Intake Manager and/or with the Summer issue of the Rock Garden Quarterly.

US members who wish to obtain a Small Lots Seed Permit in order to receive seed from outside the United States (from overseas seed exchanges or seed sources) should check out our Small Lots of Seed Permit Information for details.

For Countries requiring a Phytosanitary Certificate

IMPORTANT: Phytosanitary certificate must accompany all shipments of seed entering any country within the European Union, UK, Japan, and Australia. NARGS is willing to cover the cost of sending one shipment from the Main Distribution to each country, if a member in that country is willing to be the Consignee and receive the seeds and re-distribute the orders to the other members in that country.  If a single consignee cannot be found, then all members in that country may have to pay the fee for their own phytosanitary certificates. If you are willing to be a consignee for your country please use the Contact Us link in the top menu, select "Seed Exchange" for the category and send message requesting details.

Orders from these countries will be filled in their proper order (by date of arrival, Donors first, etc.) then held until the closing of Main Distribution on January 31st. The Plant Inspector will then come to inspect the seeds, and issue the phytosanitary certificates. After the seeds pass inspection they will be shipped to the consignee for each country along with the phytosanitary certificate, with each order in its own mailer, so all the consignee needs to do is apply postage and post them on to the member. Seed orders will not reach members until mid- to late-February. Moist packed seeds cannot be sent to these countries so please do NOT select any moist packed seed or any other seeds that are prohibited entry by your country. Due to the cost of the phytos and extra work involved in obtaining them, we regret that members residing in EU, UK, Japan, and Australia will NOT be able to place orders in the Surplus Distribution.