Seed Saving & Gardening Terms

Use this list of terms to expanding your knowledge and understanding of seed saving and gardening. The following definitions are drawn from The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving, edited by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel and published by Seed Savers Exchange.

Annual: a plant that completes its full life cycle—including germination, reproduction, and death—in one growing season

Anther: the pollen-producing part of a stamen

Biennial: a plant that requires vernalization and usually completes its life cycle in two growing seasons, growing vegetatively during the first season, undergoing vernalization, and producing flowers and seeds and dying during the second season

Bolt: to elongate rapidly (as a stem) prior to flowering

Cross-pollination: the transfer of pollen from one plant onto the stigma or flower of another plant

Cultivar: a plant or group of plants that have been bred or selected to have distinguishable, desirable traits; commonly called a variety

F1: the first-generation offspring produced from a cross between two different populations or varieties; an abbreviation of “first filial generation”

Filament: the hairlike stalk of a stamen that has a pollen-bearing anther at its tip

Flower: the reproductive structure of an angiosperm

Genetically modified organism (GMO):an organism that has had its genetic composition altered by way of molecular breeding techniques

Germination:the process by which a seed absorbs water and swells, causing the radicle to break through the seed coat; the emergence of a young plant from a seed

Heirloom variety:an open-pollinated cultivar that has been grown and shared from generation to generation within a family or community

Hybrid:a plant or variety created by crossing two stable, genetically distinct parental populations; of or related to such a plant or variety; also called an F1 hybrid

Isolation:the separation of one plant or group of plants from another to prevent cross-pollination

Natural selection:the multigenerational process by which heritable traits in a population become more or less common as a result of how efficiently those traits help individuals survive and reproduce

Open-pollinated variety:a variety that, when allowed to cross-pollinate only with other members of the same population, produces offspring that display the characteristic traits of the variety

Perennial:a plant that can live for more than two years, usually producing flowers and seeds for many years

Pistil:the female reproductive organ at the center of a flower, usually composed of an ovary, style, and stigma

Pollen:typically dust-like structures, produced by anthers, that carry male reproductive cells in flowering plants

Pollinator:an animal, often an insect, that moves pollen from an anther to a stigma

Population:the total number of plants of a variety that contribute their genetic material to the seeds being collected; a group of interfertile plants growing together that have the potential to interbreed

Row cover:spun synthetic fabric used to protect crops from pests and frost

Seed:a mature plant ovule composed of an embryo, an endosperm, and a seed coat

Seedborne: being carried in or on a seed; often refers to pathogens or disease

Self-pollination: the transfer of pollen from an anther to a stigma of the same plant

Stamen: the male reproductive structure of a flower, comprised of a filament and an anther

Stigma: the pistil’s sticky tip, which receives pollen

True-to-type: conforming to the known characteristics of a known plant variety

Variety: a phenotypically distinct, naturally occurring population of plants within a species: commonly used as a synonym for “cultivar”

Vernalization: the exposure of a plant to low temperatures, enabling the plant to flower