To answer that question, it helps to know a little more about both the plant we collected the seed from, as well as the likely source of the pollen that fertilized the flower to form the seed.
It can be very rewarding to harvest and save seed of ornamental and vegetable plants. But why is it that sometimes when we plant the seed we saved, the results do not seem to be very like the plant we collected the seed from?
In inbred plants, the eggs are fertilized with pollen from the same plant. (Another term for this that you may have heard is self-pollination). The progeny will each have two identical (or nearly so) sets of genes, exact copies of their parents, and very similar to each other. Most peas and beans are inbred. Since seed from self-pollinated plants will produce plants very like the plant it was produced on, these kinds of plants are ideal for seed saving.
Hybrids result from crossing two different inbred lines. All of the first generation of plants from this cross will contain the exact same two sets of genes (one from each line) and thus will be identical to each other. This first generation is what you buy in a seed packet marked “Hybrid” or “F1”. However, the next generation (the plants that will grow from seed produced from plants grown from “F1” seed) will contain a random mixture of genes, resulting in plants that may have a whole range of desirable and undesirable characteristics. Thus you should not save seed from F1 or hybrid plants if you want to be certain that the plants grown from that seed will be the same as their parents.
When a seed is formed by a plant, it is the result of pollen fertilizing an egg (ovule). Whether the resulting seed “comes true,” that is, produces plants identical to the plant that it was harvested from, depends on whether it is outcrossed, inbred, or hybrid. These three options determine whether the two sets of genes (one from the pollen and one from the ovule) are likely to be identical or very different.
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Thank you for growing with us.
Since 1975, we have grown, saved, and shared heirloom seeds and led a movement to protect biodiversity and preserve heirloom varieties. At the heart of our organization is a seed bank that houses a collection of 20,000+ rare, open-pollinated varieties. With gardeners like you, we can get these seeds where they belong—in gardens and on tables everywhere, for generations to come.
New for 2021
Donated to SSE in 2004, Wick’s lima has a long history of being grown and shared as far back as the 1930s in West Virginia.
We steward a collection of 20,000+ rare and heirloom varieties in a seed bank at our Iowa headquarters.
We educate and support community groups and gardeners looking to grow, save, and share seeds.