What are Open Pollinated Flowers?


Applewood specializes in small to large-scale production of open pollinated (OP) flower seeds which include wildflowers, heirloom garden flowers and newer flower varieties. They reproduce either through cross-pollination or self-pollination. OP garden flowers are standard varieties that breed true, producing offspring that look the same as their parents. This is called breeding “true to type”. They are sown from seed collected in the previous growing season without concern that the offspring will have vastly different traits from the parents.

Petunia ‘Fire Chief’

An example of one of our OP flower varieties is Petunia ‘Fire Chief’. It was developed by Bodger Seeds and became an All-America Selections (AAS) winner in 1950. An even older example is Cosmos ‘Sensation Mix’. It was developed within the seed trade and became an AAS winner in 1936.

In contrast to OP flower varieties, the offspring of many hybrid species do not breed true. It is not advisable to retain seeds of hybrid plants for planting in the next growing season. F1 hybrids are developed through a process of crossing two different varieties of the same plant species. Each parent plant comes from a pure line and breeds true to type. Pollination is achieved through hand pollination of the female line using pollen from the male line. It is time consuming and more expensive, but the offspring have favorable traits of both parent lines. F1 hybrids are very consistent in appearance and characteristics.

OP varieties were developed through the process of selecting plants with desirable traits and using seeds from those plants for the next year’s crop. This usually involves the removal (roguing) of all plants that lack the desired features (off-types) from the grower’s field so that only plants with desirable features are left to produce seeds. Physical traits are selected over several to many years, resulting in plants that can look significantly different from the first crop. It is through this method that most of our heirloom varieties of flowers and vegetables have been developed over the centuries. Morning Glory ‘Grandpa Ott’ is an example of an OP heirloom variety. It originated in Bavaria and was passed down through the family, and eventually it ended up in the seed trade.

Morning Glory ‘Grandpa Ott’

When a grower plants a field of an OP flower variety that cross-pollinates, care must be taken to insure a proper isolation distance from other fields that contain different varieties of the same species. Generally 0.5 to 1 mile is sufficient since this is the maximum flying distance of many insect pollinators. Field isolation prevents the transfer of pollen between different varieties. Growers must also rogue off-types from their field to maintain variety integrity. Applewood Seed is proud to support the maintenance of OP flower varieties so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.