Future Harvest Glossary and Resources

Glossary of Terms for Seed Saving

Annual – Plants that grow from seed and produce seed themselves in 1 year

Biennial – Plants that require 2 years to grow and reproduce; the first year they grow leaves, the 2nd they produce seeds.

Cross-Pollination – Pollen from one plant transfers to the flower of another resulting in a crossing between varieties.

GMO – Genetically Modified Organism – a plant that was produced by crossing genes in a lab instead of naturally in a garden, sometimes taking genes from fish and crossing with vegetables to get a unique variety that can be patented.

Heirloom or Heritage Seeds – a non-hybrid or open pollinated seed variety that has been passed down through generations as a family favorite, usually over 50 years or more.

Hybrid – the offspring of a cross between parent varieties that are similar but genetically different; seeds from hybrids may not produce the same plant as its parents. F1 refers to the first generation of crossing varieties.

Isolation – Separating one plant or group of plants from another to prevent any crossing, as in squash varieties.

Native – plants that were growing here in the US when the first Europeans arrived, wildlife depends on these species for their growth and reproduction

Naturalized – Plants that may not be native but have spread rapidly here and grow naturally on their own, usually useful herbs the Europeans brought over

Non-Native or Alien – species of plants that are not native, many of which can be invasive and not good for wildlife or pollinators

Open-Pollinated – Non-hybrid plants produced by crossing 2 parent plants from the same variety; their seeds produce offspring just like their parents.

Organic – Grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides; usually grown with compost or manure or other natural ingredients.

Patented Seeds – Seeds produced by corporations with patents on them, which means they “own” them,  royalties must be paid to the corporations to grow them.

Perennials – Plants that grow more than 2 years and produce seeds from the same root, year after year.

Scarification – the nicking of the seed coating to induce germination, like rubbing the seed on sandpaper

Stratification – treating seeds with temperature and moisture for a certain number of days to induce germination, such as keeping milkweed seeds in moist sand or peat for 30 days in the refrigerator before planting outside.

Food Sovereignty – the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. The ability of a community to grow, produce and distribute food within its own region without dependence on outside sources.


For more info see The Seed Garden, a useful reference book published by the Seed Savers Exchange on growing and saving seeds.  www.seedsavers.org