This is not a comprehensive glossary, but should define most terms you will find in seed saving literature.
alternate-day caging - A technique that allows two different flowering varieties to be pollinated by insects without being cross-pollinated. Cages constructed of wood, wire, or plastic frames are covered with fine screen. One variety is covered with cages one day, allowing the other to be visited and pollinated by insects; the cages are switched each day to allow insect access to the previously caged variety.
anther - Organ where pollen is produced.
chaff - Broken pieces of dried seed capsules, stems, leaves and other debris mixed in with seeds.
characteristics - General features caused by unidentified complexes of genes including but not limited to freeze tolerance, cold tolerance, regional adaptability, winter hardiness, early maturation, and flavor.
cleaning screen - Screens with different-sized openings are used to separate seeds from chaff. The screen number denotes the number of openings that will cover a one inch line. A screen is selected with openings just large enough to let seeds drop through without the chaff or as in the case of larger seeds, a screen selected to allow the chaff to drop through without the seeds.
cross-pollination - When pollen is exchanged between different flowers from the same or different plants.
dehiscent - A seed capsule opened to discharge seeds is dehiscent. Seeds must be harvested before this process takes place and the seeds are lost. In some varieties, the seed capsules literally explode.
dioecious - A species with male flowers and female flowers on separate plants as opposed to monoecious.
dominant trait - The variation of a specific, identifiable gene that results in obserable traits. For example, tall is a dominant trait in pea plant growth. Crosses with bush varieties will usually result in tall varieties. See "trait."
F1 hybrid - The "F" in F1 hybrid stands for filial or offspring. F1 means the first generation offspring after cross-pollination. The majority of F1 hybrids are sterile or produce offspring unlike themselves. See "hybrid."
F2 hybrid – The second generation offspring and so on.
filament - Tube that supports the anther where pollen is produced.
flail - The process of fracturing or crushing seedpods in order to free the seeds. This can take the form of everything from simply rubbing broccoli pods between your hands to driving over bean vines with a car or bribing high school students to jump up and down on seeds.
flower - The part of a plant where reproduction takes place and seeds are produced.
hybrid - Varieties resulting from natural or artificial pollination between genetically distinct parents. Commercially, the parents used to produce hybrids are usually inbred for specific characteristics.
inbred – reproduction of plants using parents that are significantly similar over time. In some plants this is not a problem (tomatoes and lettuce, for example) as they have flowers with both male and female and are typically fertilized within the flower before it even opens (see 'selfing'); other plants, needing a wide variety of genetic information to remain healthy cannot last long with such a limited gene pool.
inbreeding depression - A loss of vigor because of inbreeding. Inbreeding is the result of self-pollination or pollination between two close relatives.
insect pollination - Pollen is carried from one flower to another by insects.
monoecious - A species is monoecious if it produces single plants with separate male flowers and female flowers on the same plant.
open-pollinated - Open-pollinated varieties are stable varieties resulting from the pollination between the same or genetically similar parents. Not hybrid.
ovary - The female part of a flower that contains the ovules. Fertilized ovules develop into mature seeds.
perfect flowers - Individual flowers that contain both stamens and pistils, that is to say, both male and female parts.
pistil - The female reproductive organ in a flower made up of the stigma, style, and ovary.
pollen - Equivalent of sperm in plants. Pollen grain fertilizes plant ovules.
pollination - The process of sexual fertilization in plants. The male chromosomes contained in pollen are combined with the female chromosomes contained in the ovules; pollination can be done by insects, wind, water, birds or bats. In most vegetable crops pollination is carried out by wind or insects.
recessive trait - The variation of a specific, identifiable gene that results in observable traits only if the dominant trait is not present. For example, wrinkled pea seeds result only in varieties where the dominant smooth-seed trait is missing.
rogue - The process of removing or destroying plants with unwanted characteristics or traits.
selection - The process of saving the seeds from plants that exhibit desirable characteristics and traits. To identify desirable characteristics, plant the same variety in different environmental conditions, or plant different varieties in the same environ mental conditions.
self-pollination (selfing) - When pollination takes place within a single flower, usually before it opens. Other flowers or plants are not needed. Self-pollinating flowers are called "perfect flowers" because they contain the stamens that produce pollen and the pistil that receives the pollen. Isolation distance to prevent cross-pollination is not necessary unless insects are known to invade the flowers before pollination is complete.
silique - Long, tube-like seedpod that splits in half.
stamen - A flower's male reproductive organ consisting of the filament, anther, and pollen.
stigma - The opening in the pistil through which the pollen passes to the ovary.
style - Contains the pollen tube between the stigma and the ovary through which the pollen is carried.
thresh - A term used by growers and seed savers to describe the process of separating seeds from chaff; they can be separating for grain to eat or for seeds to save, the term is ubiquitous.
trait - A specific feature traced to an identifiable gene or group of genes. Pea traits traceable to single genes include vine growth (bush or tall), seed texture (smooth or wrinkled) and disease resistance (fusarium, enation mosaic, and powdery mildew).
viable - A viable seed is one that will germinate and produce a vigorous plant. Seeds must not be harvested before they have matured enough to be viable. There is wide variation in the point of maturity at which a seed can be harvested and the time passing when the seed will still be viable. Seeds have been known to remain viable for hundreds of years, but in practice, many seeds are no longer viable even after five years.
vigor - Strong, vibrant germination and growth. A desirable characteristic.
wind pollination - When pollen is carried from one flower to another by the wind.
winnow – A seed cleaning technique still used from ancient times to clean seeds by moving air from a fan or breeze to separate heavier seeds from lighter chaff.