The Seed Centre

The central hub of our seed conservation

Located in Kilclief, Co Down the seed centre is open to the public during normal working hours.

To ensure that we’re in if you’re going to drop in you can ring the office first on 028 4488 1736 to check.  It’s very possible that in the summer and autumn we’ll be out on seed collecting expeditions.

We’ll be happy to show you around, you can have a coffee or tea with us while we chat about all things plants.

The lab

Processing and storage of the collections

Our lab in Kilclief is where we process the seed collections as they come in:

  • The seed are laid out to dry in ambient conditions.
  • The herbarium specimens are put into fresh dry paper and given a label.
  • The DNA samples are labelled and stored in silica gel.
  • The information from the data sheet is entered into the database and finally
  • The photographs are stored on the backup drive.

Its also where the seed is processed for long term storage in the seed bank.

  • Seed is cleaned and dried down to 15% relative humidity.
  • Seeds are packaged ready for the deep freeze.
  • Collections are labelled and catalogued.

The Seed Bank

Houses the seeds

The core of the gene bank is the seed vault – the freezer where the seeds are stored at -20C.

To enable the seeds to be stored at this low temperature they’re first cleaned, dried down to 15% relative humidity (RH) then catalogued, labelled and sealed into bags or jars.

In these conditions seeds can last up to and beyond 200 years.

Seed collctions are held in two batches. One, a base lot remains in deep storage which helps its longevity in storage, while another is made available for requests from bona fide individuals or organisations to withdraw seed for restoration projects, testing purposes or growing out.

The polytunnel

Indoor space for working with seeds and plants

To keep our young plants, volunteers and staff out of the elements we rely on our polytunnel. Seeds are planted in seed trays and then pricked out into modules.  There are two heights of potting tables – adults and kids. It’s also a bright and breezy place for cleaning seeds by hand.

Under table shelving provides storage space for sundry gardening equipment and compost. There is a wet sand bench to keep plants in pots from drying out too quickly, which will also double up as a heated bench in early spring and give plants a head start.

Seed are dried here throughout the season. Before processing it is necessary to allow seeds, chaff and stalks to reach a certain dryness. Shading can be positioned to allow wet or large collections to be dried out with plenty of air circulation on the shelving in crates, or on the floor on mesh.



Based at Kilclief

Plant material is gathered at the same time as getting the herbarium specimens and photos. It is brought to the centre and stored for future uses including possible determination of the genetic history of species in Ireland. It is our plan to facilitate research in the not too distant future.

Germination testing is carried out on the collected seeds. Ultimately this data is used to test the viability of the seed collections for long term storage over time. Only a germination rate of 85% and above is sufficient for long term storage. Depending on viability results, the seeds will be retested for viabillity at sitable intervals and compared against the original germination tests. If a population is showing signs of ageing or losing viability they can be planted and grown out for a new batch of seed, or a new collection made.

Outside spaces

Mulit use picnic tables can seat up to 30!

Ideal for larger groups of visitors, the picnic tables make a fantastic venue for lunch in the sunshine days.  Doubling up on purpose the seats fold away and the tables make perfect benches for working with and learning about seeds and plants.  Also known to have served as work benches, luckily no-one’s sawn through them as yet!

This entire area is enclosed within a fence within the outer boundary of the property and directly leading from the car park, which means there are two gates, separated by the car park, before the main road.

Outside growing space

These raised beds, generously provided by Sea-Changers funding and expertly built as a donation, by TCV’s Stephen and his team of volunteers. To be filled with various substrates and used to grow out six coastal species: Marram, Lyme, sand and sea couch grasses as well as the schedule 8 oyster plant and sea kale.

The plants are being grown ex-situ so that their seeds can be collected and used in restoration projects in the local area without us needing to go back and collect from wild populations. The beds are 4.8m x 1.2m each so we can grow many individuals and avoid genetic bottlenecks.  The original seeds were collected with kind permissions from Rossglass and other local beaches.  No more than 20% of mature seed available on one day of the year is taken so the wild population is preserved.

The other side of the path is designated for ground level beds to grow out small collections.  Volunteers are being welcomed from the spring onwards throughout 2018 so if you like to get your hands into the soil and grow native seed, get in touch we’d love to hear from you.

THS' production unit at Kilclief; a working hub from which to preserve our wild flowers.

If you would like to find out more, share your knowledge, stories and become involved in the work here please contact us at

If it’s volunteering you’d like to do please see our volunteering page for more details or email

There are many facets to this work and we welcome every opportunity to work with people young and old, and share knowledge about seeds and plants.