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Seed Saver's Glossary

Seed Saver's Glossary

Here at Sow True Seed, we would love to see every gardener start to save some of their seed every season. After all, Seed = Food and we cannot have food sovereignty without seed sovereignty! Just to help with a bit of the confusing terminology that you might run into on your journey, wherever you may be in it, we've put together this list to help.

Anther- Organ where pollen is produced.

Chaff- Leftover bits of dried seed capsules, leaves and branches.

Cross-pollination- Pollen exchange from an anther of one plant to the stigma of another.

Dehiscent- A seed capsule that splits at maturity. Seed collecting must take place before this happens or seeds will be lost.

Dioecious- A species with male flowers and female flowers on separate plants.

F1 Hybrid- First generation of offspring after cross-pollination. Often sterile and will not grow true-to-type.

Filament- The tube that supports the anther.

Genetic Diversity- The palette of genetic differences generated by plants of the same species.

GMO- Also known as GE, or Genetically Engineered. Unlike open-pollinated/heirloom, non-hybrid, and hybrid varieties, genetically modified (GM) plants are not created through a natural pollination process. GM organisms (GMOs) are created by inserting genetic material from one source (such as bacteria, fungus, insect, or animal) into another. While GM seeds can usually reproduce, they will not likely grow true to type, and the genetic material is patented, which makes saving the seed illegal. As a result, farmers have faced devastating legal battles -and worse- for saving seed contaminated by GMOs.

Heirloom Seeds- Non-hybrid vegetable varieties that have been passed down in history. They are not usually used in modern agriculture.

Hybrid- Varieties resulting from artificial pollination of parent plants that are genetically different.

Inbreeding Depression- A loss of vigor because of inbreeding. Inbreeding is the result of self-pollination or pollination between close relatives due to insufficient population. Sometimes also referred to as “bottle necking.”

Monoecious- A species that produces separate male and female flowers on the same plant.

Open-Pollinated- Stable, non-hybrid varieties of plants resulting from pollination between the same or genetically similar parents.

Ovary- The female part of a flower that contains the ovules.

Perfect Flower- A flower that contains both stamen and pistil.

Pollen- Male spores produced by the anthers. Equivalent of sperm in plants.

Self-Incompatible- Some perfect flowers have a genetic mechanism that prevents self-fertilization.

Self-pollination- Transfer of pollen from anther to stigma on the same flower.

Stigma- Part of the flower that receives the pollen.

Style- Connects stigma to the ovary.

Threshing- Separating seeds from the chaff.

Trait- A specific genetic feature expected of a plant.

True-to-Type- A plant that displays the known and expected characteristics of a variety.

Viable- A seed that will germinate to produce a vigorous plant.

Variety- Plants that are closely related forming a subdivision of a species.

Vegetative Reproduction- Reproduction without seeds. Also known as Clone Reproduction.

Winnow- The act of pouring seeds from one container to another with use of the wind or a fan to separate chaff from seeds.

Where are you on your seed saving journey? We feel like the key to success and sticking with it is to keep it manageable, and make sure you are having fun! It will be very hard to convince yourself to keep up with it if you lose sight of the forest for the trees. And we are always here to help!


Article Written by: Angie Lavezzo

About the Author: Angie Lavezzo is the former general manager of Sow True Seed. Beyond her professional role at Sow True, Angie's passion for gardening extends into personal hands-on experience, fostering plants and reaping bountiful harvests.