Native Seed Categories

Native Seed Categories thompsbb

Use seed adapted to local climate and growing conditions

An example of a yellow tag identifying an Iowa source identified seed.

Yellow tag

Iowa yellow tag certified source-identified seed is highly recommended for roadside plantings. Because the Iowa Crop Improvement Association certifies that this Iowa seed originates from Iowa prairies, the region and climate to which it is adapted are known. This seed is often collected from multiple sites within a region of the state, giving it a broad genetic base and potentially making it adapted to a wider range of growing conditions. Buying yellow tag seed also reduces the risk of introducing new weeds to Iowa. Most of the seed provided through the FHWA grant is yellow tag seed.

Local ecotype

Local ecotype seed of Iowa or nearby origin that is not yellow-tag certified is also appropriate for roadside plantings and can be obtained from seed vendors by requesting “local ecotype” seed. Some counties establish their own local ecotype prairie grass and wildflower production plots with seed collected from prairie remnants within their county or region. It is important for this seed to be well cleaned and tested so it is known how much live seed is actually being planted.


Cultivars or cultivated varieties are generally not recommended. Cultivars are often derived from sources too far south and west of Iowa and so are adapted to a different climate and growing season. Most were developed for forage production and can be too aggressive in diverse plantings. Cultivars are available in only a limited number of species.

Sources of yellow tag species and related information can be found in the Iowa Crop Improvement Association’s Native Seed Directory. Additional native seed sources and information can be found in the Tallgrass Prairie Center’s Iowa Prairie Seed and Service Providers page.