Non-Specific Mixed Seed Packets - Are They "Safe"?
Lots of places like to give out free seeds as advertising. Some claim to be great for bees or butterflies, others are just supposed to be pretty. So when those seed packets are "mixed" and not simply "Black Eyed Susan" seeds, is there a way to tell if the seeds are for plants that are local or native to the area. I don't want to plant something that will attract/"enable" non-native species (be they plant or animal) to my yard. For example, I recently got a "Sunflower Mix" packet that just says "An Autumn Mix of Sunflowers" from a local Maryland Agency. Part of me assumes that they have done their research and they "know better", but I am obviously hesitant to plant them. I am reaching out to them as well, but my question is really generic. Is it ever a good idea to plant non-specific seed mix packets? If I decide not to plant them is there a proper way to dispose of them to ensure they don't grow wherever they end up or is it near impossible for them to grow if they end up in a land fill?
Being aware of our native pollinators and wildlife and their needs is wonderful when planning and planting your landscape. We assume due to your question that you are doing this. (Here is our native plant section: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/native-plants )
Also being aware of species which are problematic and invasive is also important.
(Here is our invasive plant page: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/invasive-plants)
These are the plants that have proven themselves to be truly problematic and should be avoided.
Most of the plants that are the worst culprits in our area are shrubby, trees, vines or grasses. There are not a great deal of flowers on the list, but familiarize yourself with those that are, or refer back to our pages.
Flower seed mixes like the sunflower mix, where you are planting a variety of fall-color annual sunflowers should not be a problem. They may not be as nutritious (or they might be- there is not research to say) but they are generally a much loved nectar/seed source for pollinators and for small mammals as well.
As far as what animals are native as opposed to introduces, see these pages from the Department of Natural Resources: http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/plants_wildlife/mdwllists.aspx
If you have a packet that you don't want, feel free to send it out with your trash. Most refuse facilities are managed in such a way that it doesn't seem a likely concern.