Volunteer (botany)

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In gardening and agronomic terminology, a volunteer is a plant that grows on its own, rather than being deliberately planted by a farmer or gardener.[1] Volunteers often grow from seeds that float in on the wind, are dropped by birds, or are inadvertently mixed into compost. Unlike weeds, which are unwanted plants, a volunteer may be encouraged by gardeners once it appears, being watered, fertilized, or otherwise cared for; the action of such plants – to sprout or grow in this fashion – may also be described as volunteering.[2]

Volunteers that grow from the seeds of specific cultivars are not reliably identical or similar to their parent, and often differ significantly from it; such open pollinated plants, if they show desirable characteristics, may be selected to become new cultivars.


Maize growing in a soybean field in the central United States

In agricultural rotations, self-set plants from the previous year's crop may become established as weeds in the current crop. For example, volunteer winter wheat will germinate to quite high levels in a following oilseed rape crop, usually requiring chemical control measures. In agricultural research, high purity of a harvested crop is usually desirable. To achieve this, typically a group of temporary workers will walk the crop rows looking for volunteer plants, or "rogue" plants in an exercise often referred to as "roguing".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Davey, J. (2007). "Crop Ferality and Volunteerism". Annals of Botany. 99: 205–206. doi:10.1093/aob/mcl244. PMC 2802985.
  2. ^ "Plant Literature - V". Retrieved 18 October 2017.