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:
- Legally protected species, i.e., special protection and regulation of particular species (aquatic and wetland, invasive/noxious weeds, endangered species subject to state/federal/international laws).
- Legally protected lands, i.e., the right of access to property where the plants are growing.
- Transport permits required for carrying or shipping listed species, e.g., CITES-listed endangered species across international borders and listed noxious weeds. It is completely prohibited to transport certain noxious weeds across international borders.
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. “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 admissible 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 is more straightforward with the Certificate of Scientific Exchange (COSE and see also here). Federally listed plants shipped internationally require additional permits.
Aquatic and Wetland Plants
- Aquatic Plant Collection. A permit is required for the collection of plants that are floating, emersed, submersed, or ditchbank species growing in, or closely associated with, an aquatic environment. Collection means the removal or gathering of of any aquatic plant, including any part or seed thereof, from the place in which it is growing in the natural environment. The collection of aquatic plants and noxious aquatic plants from state lands is regulated by the Aquatic Plant Importation, Transportation, Non-Nursery Cultivation, Possession and Collection rule (Rule Chapter 5B-64 of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry) under authority from the Florida Statutes. “The collection of aquatic plant material from sovereignty lands is prohibited unless a permit is issued by the bureau. This permit shall constitute permission from the Division of State Lands and authorization for such collection.” “Herbaria of educational or research institutions shall not be required to possess a permit for its preserved specimens, however a permit shall be required for the collection or importation of live specimens.” However, if plants are pressed and fully processed on site, a permit may not be needed. Consult the Division of Plant Industry of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Plant Inspection page and their Aquatic Plant Permit Information page for more information.
Important: There are additional regulations in regards to the collection of noxious aquatic weeds.
- CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) (register of scientific institutions). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers the US import and export of CITES species. The USFWS CITES web site includes information on CITES and lists of the species concerned. The CITES overview document and the CITES Permits and Certificates document provides a complete overview of the required procedures. A pdf document of the USFWS import/export form 3-177 is available through the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement site. Additional USFWS service forms are may be found on the forms page (series 3-200 forms include applications for import and export licenses).
- Federally listed species. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service administers the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Program web site provides comprehensive information on the laws and species.
- State-endangered, threatened, and commercially exploited species. These are regulated under the Preservation of Native Flora of Florida law, Rule Chapter 5B-40 of the Florida Administrative Code under authority from the Florida Statutes Chapter 581.185, 581.186 and 581.187 (note: fines are defined in 581.141). Permitting is administered by the Division of Plant Industry of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Usually, non-commercial collection of material from one’s own property (including designated employees of the property owner) does not require a permit. The Preserving Florida’s Native Flora page provides definitions and guidelines. There are almost 600 species listed.
Noxious Weeds and Invasive Species
- Aquatic Plant Importation, Transportation, Non-Nursery Cultivation, Possession and Collection (Rule Chapter 5B-64 of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry) under authority from the Florida Statutes. “No person, except aquatic plant nurseries regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, shall engage in any business activity involving the importation, transportation, sale or possession of any aquatic plant species without a permit issued by the department unless expressly exempted by Rule 5B-64.010, F.A.C. Collection activities exempted from permitting requirements under this chapter, when undertaken on private or sovereignty lands, must be authorized by the landowner.”…”The collection of aquatic plant material from sovereignty lands is prohibited unless a permit is issued by the bureau. This permit shall constitute permission from the Division of State Lands and authorization for such collection.” “Herbaria of educational or research institutions shall not be required to possess a permit for its preserved specimens, however a permit shall be required for the collection or importation of live specimens.” However, if plants are pressed and fully processed on site, a permit may not be needed. Consult the Division of Plant Industry of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Aquatic Plant Permit Information page for more information.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service Federal noxious weed program is designed to prevent the introduction into the United States of nonindigenous invasive plants and to prevent the spread of newly introduced invasive plants within the United States. The the Federal Noxious Weed List details the species subject to regulation.
- Noxious Weeds in the United States and Canada (a USDA supported part of the Invaders Database System) provides a searchable database of the noxious weed lists for all U.S. states and six southern provinces of Canada. The database can be searched by plant name, state name, or by clicking on a map.
Permission of the property owner or responsible agency is required for all properties on which you collect plants. This includes:
- Florida State Parks. Natural and cultural resources are protected on all Florida State Park lands and may not be removed without written permission. Collection of materials is only allowed for scientific and educational purposes under the Research/Collection Permit program.
- State Forests in Florida are administerd by the Division of Forestry of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
- Private Property. Permission of the land owner is required before you cross onto and collect plants from private property.
- Transportation Corridor Right-of-Ways (Highways, Railroads, etc.) permission from the local Department of Transportation district is required to collect along a Florida state highway. The collector is required to undergo safety training and wear an orange safety vest.
- United States Military Bases, Naval Air Stations and Training Facilities.
- United States National Parks. Permission is required to collect plants in U.S. National Parks. The U.S. National Park Service retains ownership of all specimens collected in national park lands, although long-term loans can be made to herbaria.
- United States National Forests (USDA, Forest Service). Permission is required to collect plants in National Forests. Applications are evaluated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with current policy and the potential biological impact of the collecting. Researchers should contact the respective forest district or the state national forest office for permit applications. The National Forests in Florida web page provides an overview of the four forests in the state (Apalachicola, Ocala and Osceola) and contact information.
Most of the permits required for the transport of dried plant specimens are species specific and covered in the legally protected species section.
- The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issues permits that may pertain to collection, transport and possession of pressed plant and herbarium specimens. Specimens brought into the United States are subject to inspection by Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ). Permit examples include, plant pathogens, federal noxious weeds and parasitic plants and Phytosanitary Issues Management. The USDA guide,
“Miscellaneous and Processed Products,” provides useful information in connection with the importation of herbarium specimens. There is a flow chart specifically to designed to determining the eligibility and regulation and species being imported.
- Plant Permits for Research and Education – web page provided by the Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection.