A row has broken out after students were confronted gathering daffodils at a St Andrews beauty spot.
People vented their anger at what some described as theft and vandalism at the town’s popular Lade Braes walkway.
However, police confirmed picking the blooms is not a crime and St Andrews University said they were taken to aid scientific study.
The six first year biology students claimed their class – of up to 220 – had been told by a lecturer to pick and press wildflowers from anywhere in the town.
Miriam Clark, who stopped to quiz the students as she walked through Lade Braes, voiced concern on Facebook, prompting a flurry of debate.
Asking whether picking daffodils there was prohibited, she said such a large class “could do some serious damage to the daffodils!”
Colin Robb replied: “I think in theory it could be considered as vandalism and destruction of Fife Council property”.
Jane E Harrison Smith wrote that this was “more than the odd daff” and it was irresponsible of university staff.
She said: “It’s not the students who are at fault here, but the person who advised them on their mission.”
Barbara Boyd, chair of St Andrews in Bloom, waded into the debate, stating: “St Andrews in Bloom have planted new bulbs in this area over the last few years. We are all volunteers and work hard to enhance the floral aspect of the town. Frustrating that daffs are picked!”
However, Natalie Rodgers responded: “It’s not illegal to pick wild flowers per se, just protected ones and even then you’d have to uproot them. “
Daffodils are not protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act Scotland and Police Scotland confirmed it is not illegal to pick the blooms, as long as bulbs are not lifted.
A university spokesman said: “We know it’s important to protect plants and wildlife from damage and disruption, so the whole community can enjoy the benefits.
“However, it should also be possible to differentiate between taking or damaging flowers for personal pleasure, and taking individual specimens for scientific study.
“That is why the St Andrews Botanic Garden was originally developed – to support teaching and education.
“Today it contributes to the wealth of wild species around St Andrews, which we hope can also serve as a springboard to further study and understanding.
“Our students were tasked with collecting plant samples in order to learn scientific identification skills.
“While those who chose to pick daffodils have not committed a criminal offence, we recognise the guidelines given to our budding biologists could have been more comprehensive, and will be advising students not to pick any specimens until guidance has been reviewed to ensure it’s in line with the biodiversity strategy currently being developed by the school of biology together with our transition team.”
Last Sunday, a pair of schoolgirls in Nottinghamshire had daffodils confiscated by police after they picked them from public land.
Daffodils are also used in the annual Kate Kennedy procession, which takes place in St Andrews on Saturday, but organisers stressed that they are supplied by Cambo Estate.