The following definitions are paraphrased, with thanks, from a USC Canada presentation on seed saving:

  • Annuals – Plants that start from seed and produce seed themselves within one growing season. For example: Tomatoes, peas, beans, lettuce.
  • Biennials – Plants that require two growing seasons to complete their life cycle. Carrots, for example, grow a tap root the first season, but if conserved over winter and replanted in spring, they will produce seeds the second summer.
  • Botanical Name – The scientific name given to a plant. Helps avoid confusion, as many plants are known colloquially by different names. The botanical name is based on taxonomy, a system of classification developed by botanists. For example: cucurbitaceae describes a family that contains squash, melons, cucumbers, and gourds.
  • Cross-pollination (“Crosser”) – The flowers are wide open, allowing pollen from one plant to be delivered to another plant – often by insects, birds, or the wind.
  • Days to Maturity – This number describes the point at which the plant yields food that is ready to eat. You typically have to wait another few weeks for their seed to mature.
  • Dry Seed – Seed in pods or on seed heads that literally dries out.
  • GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) – Varieties in which genes have been inserted into the DNA of the host variety. These genes may be from different species, genera, or even kingdoms (transgenic).
  • Heirloom Variety – Non-hybrid, open-pollinated varieties that have been passed down from generation to generation (> 50 years old is generally considered an heirloom).
  • Hybrid (‘F1’) – Are a result of a controlled crossing of inbred, genetically distinct parent populations. Most of the seeds saved from hybrids (F1’s) will appear very different from their parents. A few will look like the original F1 variety.

Hybrid vs OP

  • Inbreeding Depression – Loss of vigour and variation due to crossing two genetically-similar plants.
  • Locally-adapted – Plants that have been grown in a given geographic area over a long period of time, and that have acclimated to the local environment and proven hardy.
  • Open-pollinated (“OP”) – OP’s varieties are a result of combining parents that are genetically similar. Seed will yield plants that look like the parent plants.
  • Perennials – Plants that live more than two years and produce flowers and seeds from the same root, year after year.
  • Pollinator – An agent (e.g., an insect, bird, bat, moth, or wind) that moves pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female stigma of a flower to accomplish fertilization.
  • Roguing – The removal of an off-type, or diseased plant.
  • Self-pollinator (“Selfer”) – Flowers are tightly closed, and feature both the male and female parts. The flower essentially mates with itself. The offspring are very similar to the parent.
  • Wet Seed – Seed encased by a moist fruit or vegetable, like tomatoes, melons, or peppers.