F1 Hybrids- I often get asked about seeds marked as F1 hybrids. To understand F1 hybrids, you need to know the three types of pollination:
Credit for the article goes to https://blog.seedsavers.org/blog/open-pollinated-heirloom-and-hybrid-seeds. Photos are my own as well as some of the wording.
*Open-pollination is when pollination occurs by natural methods such as insects, bird, wind, humans ( ie when you “flick” tomato flowers to pollinate them)
Because there are no restrictions on the flow of pollen between individuals, open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse. This can cause a greater amount of variation within plant populations, which allows plants to slowly adapt to local growing conditions and climate year-to-year. As long as pollen is not shared between different varieties within the same species, then the seed produced will remain true-to-type year after year.
**An heirloom variety is a plant variety that has a history of being passed down within a family or community, similar to the generational sharing of heirloom jewelry or furniture.
An heirloom variety must be open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms. While some companies create heirloom labels based on dates (such as a variety that is more than 50 years old), Seed Savers Exchange identifies heirlooms by verifying and documenting the generational history of preserving and passing on the seed.
***Hybridization is a controlled method of pollination in which the pollen of two different species or varieties is crossed by human intervention. ( one of my favourite things to do )
Hybridization can occur naturally through random crosses, such as when a bee flys from flower to flower, dropping pollen from one too the next. commercially available hybridized seed, often labeled as F1, is deliberately created to breed a desired trait. The first generation of a hybridized plant cross also tends to grow better and produce higher yields than the parent varieties due to a phenomenon called ‘hybrid vigor’. However, any seed produced by F1 plants is genetically unstable and cannot be saved for use in following years. Not only will the plants not be true-to-type, but they will be considerably less vigorous. Gardeners who use hybrid plant varieties must purchase new seed every year. Hybrid seeds can be stabilized, becoming open-pollinated varieties, by growing, selecting, and saving the seed over many years.
For example- below are three chocolate cherry sunflowers. The first photo is the first generation, the second photo is the seeds grown from the first one- note the hints of yellow showing in the inner edges of the petals by the seeds. the third photo is of the third generation- mutated, almost completely reverted, and half the height.