True Harvest Seeds

Citizen Science 4 Community Action

Citizen Science 4 Community Action

True Harvest Seeds make wild native Irish seed collections. We process the collections and save them in the seed bank here in Co Down. The seeds are available for withdrawal for restoration and research purposes. We give training so others can also make collections to donate to the seed bank. The seed bank is owned by True Harvest Seeds which is a charity registered in northern Ireland.

There are around 1,000 bankable (orthodox) species in Ireland. Over the 32 counties not every county has all the species. We estimate that a seed bank holding usable samples of each population from each significant geographical location will need to hold 50,000 collections. That’s a lot of collecting. And that’s why we are developing a partnership program. We need to get species in NOW as a matter of urgency before climate change, herbicides and importation of non-native seed (of our native species) leads to such hybridisation that our own species no longer exist.

We can train you on how to make the scientific collections necessary to get good quality, usable collections into the bank.

It’s not rocket science, it’s seed science and without seeds there’s no planet, never mind rockets or people.

We greatly appreciate the funding from Awards for All, which allowed us to test the water creating partnerships and delivering training in an organised way. Two purposes were served, one in terms of plant conservation where 11 species were banked into the seed bank, and the other purpose to help people get out and about in a newly emerging world post covid. It would have been easy to stay inside, or at least in our seed centre in Kilclief venturing out on quiet seed expeditions, but the sheer enthusiasm and happiness that many of our participants obviously enjoyed has highlighted that it is very important for organisations to lead the way and help people safely re-join worthwhile outdoor activities. Doing good for the environment has a feel good factor that is hard to beat.

“All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today.”

Old Indian proverb.

We are working hard to secure funding for 2022 to create working partnerships to give people the seed collection training they need to make collections suitable for banking and subsequent use.

Here’s some of the groups who were lucky enough to get the training in 2021 thanks to the Awards 4 All Community Lottery fund. Thank you. We hope you can get a feel of what seed expeditions can be like from the following short stories.

Strangford Community Association

Red Campiom

On our collection day at the end of July a thunderstorm took over

We managed to get some bush vetch Vicia sepium collected, before we huurried for cover at John’s house, who then generously provided us with delicious coffee. The best weather to collect in is after lunch on a warm dry day. This way the seeds are the dryest when you collect them into cloth or paper bags, it is dry and cool conditions that preserves seeds.
Two group members Sean and John went back and finished the collection the next day.
In subsequent days they also collected Red Campion Silene dioica, Hedge Woundwort Stachys sylvestris, Meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis and Self Heal Prunella vulgaris and brought them to Kilclief. Thank you Sean and John for your attention to detail and very worthwile work.

The rain prevented photos but here’s some from our photo library.
Thanks to landowners Peter and Sian.

I have an interest in wildflowers and was delighted to have the chance to take part in this course.

For the preservation of our native plants and our natural heritage.

Feedback from some of the participants from Strangford Residents Association group.


The Conservation Volunteers

TCV Bangor group

Still keeping socially distanced we talked theory in a gazebo in Bangor

With organisational help from Russell the group assessed the populations of Meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis, Meadow buttercup Ranunculus acris and the species we finally decided on Lesser stitchwort Stellaria graminea. Whilst the Lathyrus and the Ranunculus are desirable in a meadow for nectar, pollen, structure and beauty, the Stellaria was greatest in abundance. It’s best to collect from a population when it’s at its peak in terms of mature, available seed – then your 20% is at its largest number. This is best for when we’re wanting to share the collection at a later date for restoration or research.

With kind permission from landowners NIEA.

I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and demonstration. I would like to volunteer in an organised collection as a helper.

Fascinating day – a lot of information to take on board.

Feedback from some of the participants from TCV group.


Killinchy Beekeepers Association

Taking photographs of flora

On a warm sunny day by the lakeside of Finnebrogue

Sitting around the picnic tables we talked about our native species and what it means to have a seed bank for the flora of the island. An insurance for future generations.

After lunch we went out to have a look and see what might be available. Beginning of September is a good time. We found good populations of Water forget-me-not Myosotis scorpodies and Water plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica. We were a large group so we split into two doing one species each.

With kind permission from the Lindsay family.

Awareness that my work today really could have a positive impact in preserving seeds for the future.

Learning the importance of native species and how precious they are.

Very good to be out this outdoor project – felt very safe.

Feedback from some of the participants from Killinchy Beekeeping Assocation group.


Grassroots Group

Right beside busy Belfast in the extensive Lagan meadows

Still warm enough to inhabit a picnic table for the theory, and then lunch. We had previously agreed Black knapweed Centaurea nigra, with the NIEA landowner. Thank you to NIEA. We had to search for it, so the area covered was fairly large. When you have a sprawling population the best way to calculate 20% is to pick one in 5 seed bearing seed heads that you find. Everyone was organised so no plants were picked twice.

An appreciation of the methodology involved to get accurate representative samples.

I was pleased to see that there will be a scientific collection of Irish seeds.

Feedback from some of the participants from Grassroots group.


Clanrye Group

Up in the stunning Slieve Gullion Forest park we had free choice

We were lucky both days with the weather at Gullion, just one week apart and the weather turned from summer to autumn. Because we we able to choose our target species we went on a walk to see what we could find. We found two species, both at the end of their season, Wood avens Geum urbanum and Enchanter’s nightshade Circea luteloa. In the first week we took the Geum and the Circea in the second. The group were particularly good at identifying the target species and we looked at piri piri growing close by, an invasive that is similar in appearance to Geum. This is an important part of making a collection – to identify anything so similar that might end up in your collection which renders it unusable.

Thank you to landowner Newry Mourne and Down Council for their kind permission.

Very enjoyable and interesting sessions. May need some support when it comes to collecting and submitting to seed bank.

Knowing how to find enchanter’s nightshade.

Feedback from some of the participants from Clanrye group.


Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust at Binevenagh

Spectacular views and maritime flora high up on Binevenagh mountain

At Binevenagh we got permission to make a collection of Devil’s-bit scabious Succisa pratensis from Gortmore viewpoint. It was a fine day, but the wind was very fierce and that made it hard going. It was also difficult underfoot with large grassy tussocks and some steep parts. We perservered and made a reasonable collection.

A useful thing to do before heading out is to discuss your risk assessment with team members. Download a copy of our generic seed collecting risk assessment here – this is just a guide to help you, you’ll want to add your own team/site specific items yourself.

Many thanks for landowners permission from Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust.

[My] understanding about the scientific methodology involved in seed collections.

Knowledge and confidence to try seed collecting.

Feedback from some of the participants from Binevenagh group.