Types of Plants

Learn the vocabulary of plant types to make a good choice for your garden.

Flower-HerbAnnuals are plants that complete their life cycle (produce seed and die) in one growing season. Many of the garden fruits and vegetables we eat are annuals, such as lettuce, beans, peas, squashes, and radishes.

Biennials are plants that require two seasons to complete their life cycle, relying on the short days of winter to initiate flowering. These include cabbages, onions, leeks, beets, celery, parsley, and carrots.

Perennials are plants that live for a minimum of three years, but some can live for decades. They usually can produce seed and not die. Common edible perennials include many herbs such as oregano and rosemary; tree fruits like apples and pears; berries, rhubarb, artichoke and asparagus.

Open-pollinated (OP) can refer to self-pollinating plants (like tomatoes or beans) or cross-pollinating plants (cabbages or beets) whose seeds (when properly isolated in some cases) will grow out to be the same plant with the characteristics of its parent.

Heirlooms are OP varieties that have a history behind them usually passed down from generation to generation.

Hybrid (or F1) refers to plant cultivars that are achieved by the crossing of two different but related plants. Seed saved from hybrids will not reproduce true to type in the second generation, are usually owned and/or patented by seed companies and thus not part of CSLL.

GMO (genetically modified organism)/ GE (genetically engineered) plants have been created in the lab where characteristics are introduced into the DNA by unnatural genetic engineering techniques. GM seeds are not usually available, but one may unwittingly buy GM- tainted seeds or pollen can drift and contaminate neighboring crops, threatening our seed integrity and our legal ability to save seed. We do not save or share seeds from GMO/GE plants in CSLL.

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