Plant collecting and transport of collected specimens anywhere in the world, whether for scientific, commercial or personal purposes, is, in most cases, subject to a variety of regulations.

The information presented here is intended to help the plant collector determine which permits are necessary and how to obtain them. The laws and regulations in this regard are complex and subject to frequent change in content and interpretation. No claim to the accuracy and thoroughness of this information is made. Contact the agency responsible for administration of each regulation for current policy.

Several types of regulation should be considered when plant collecting and transporting specimens:

Regulations vary, but generally apply to pressed and alcohol preserved specimens as well as fragments preserved for DNA analysis. The import and export of living material over international borders is subject to additional regulations not covered in this document (e.g., phytosanitary certificates).

Many of the Florida-centric species specific permits are issued the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Consult their Plant Permits for Research and Education web page for details on the permit process and applications.

Receiving or shipping specimens internationally can be challenging, and policies can be complex. According to the USDA, importation of parasitic plants or federal noxious weeds require a PPQ 526 permit, importation of prohibited taxa require a PPQ 588 permit, and importation of CITES material requires a PPQ 621 (unless using a COSE). “Herbarium specimens that are already mounted and accessioned do not require a permit and conditions of importation are specified in the Agricultural Commodity Import Requirements (ACIR) database under the common name, herbarium specimens.” Admissible taxa should be apparently disease-free and pest-free, and free of soil. Propagation of the plant or culturing a pathogen/pest is prohibited. Seeds or other loose material should be securely affixed or placed in containers or envelopes. Very tiny seeds should be in securely closed containers. Subject to inspection and release, then admissible taxa can be brought without a permit, provided that the specimen is bound for a herbarium. For shipments to the EU, the TARIC Code (HS): 9705 29 00 is usually applicable and the institution’s EORI should be indicated. Shipment of material between CITES registered institutions can use the Certificate of Scientific Exchange (COSE and see also here); under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), title 50, chapter I, subchapter B, part 23, subpart C (23.48), these COSE shipments should state on the customs label “CITES”, herbarium specimens, names and addresses (and institution codes), and a signature of the responsible officer. According to the Endangered Species Act (sec. 3, note 8), plants are not classified as “wildlife” and apparently do not require eDecs filed with the USFWS. Federally listed plants shipped internationally require additional permits.