Open-pollinated, hybrids, GMOs…?

There is no shortage of terminology to describe plant types. Some names are interchangeable, some aren’t. Some people care passionately about the types and others just want gorgeous plants regardless of their parentage.


Our Plants

Our nursery only sells plants that the new owner can propagate and continue on their own. That means we sell species, open-pollinated, heirlooms, occasionally landraces, and non-restricted hybrids.

Our seeds are all open-pollinated and can be freely propagated, used for breeding, and shared with others.

The hybrids we grow are herbs, sedums, and similar plants that cannot be recreated by sowing seed but can be legally propagated by cuttings.

We never sell hybrid seeds or plants that are currently patented, trademarked, or GMOs (which primarily is only used for commercial food crops).


Plant Terminolgy List

For the curious, here is a list of common plant terminology and what the differences are.

Species Plants

These are plants that are as they’re found in the wild without any human breeding. A species red flowering currant, would be known by its scientific name (Ribes sanguineum) and common name (red flowering currant).



Variety can mean the same thing as cultivars, but they can also be naturally occurring. There could be a variety of plants that evolved in the mountains that are pink while a lowland variety is more purple. They are still the same species of plant and can interbreed.



Cultivars are like varieties but are always created by human breeding. A shrub cultivar would be Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’.



Open-pollinated plants breed true from seed. They include species, heirlooms, and any other plant that has been stabilized.



A landrace is a group of plants that have not been fully stabilized. They breed roughly true but have a large gene pool and while the plants are similar, they have a high degree of variance.



Heirlooms are old varieties, we use the definition that they are varieties that were created before World War II and modern agriculture and all the chemicals that followed. All heirlooms are open-pollinated.


Hybrids can be naturally occurring but most are created when humans crossbreed two plants and grow out the first generation (F1). Unlike open-pollinated plants, first-generation hybrids do not breed true. For shrubs and trees, they are bred by cuttings or grafting. For other seeds, they need to be recrossed from the original parents.



GMO stands for genetically modified organisms where humans have changed the plant’s genome by slipping in different species’s genetic material. This mostly pertains to plants that are eaten as food like soybeans (Though there are still a lot of awesome varieties of open-pollinated soybeans!)



Plant patents refer to the legal status of a plant. While PVPs (…) can be applied to some vegetables like beans, which are extremely difficult to hybridize and the plant breeder wants to protect the variety. PVPs generally last for eighteen years. Most often plant patents are applied to plants that are asexually reproduced (like through cuttings).



Trademarks are another legal status for plants. Trademarks are a way for the breeder to make sure that others cannot sell their plants (under their true name) even after a patented or other plant protection has expired.