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                                                           F1 or F2 seeds?

Most of you will be aware that many seeds are available as F1  hybrids; perhaps fewer will have seen F2  hybrids like the packet of Thompson and Morgan Pansy seeds (Viola x wittrockiana 'Jolly Joker') I bought recently.

I had thought that F1 seeds (flowers and vegetables) generally produced vigorous growth and uniform colour, habit and yield.  I also believed that the seeds from F1 produced plants were either not fertile or of unpredictable quality. So how could you get F2 seeds?

I asked Thompson and Morgan what the terms meant, and received the following reply:

"F1  hybrids are first generation plants obtained from crossing two selected pure-breeding parents to produce uniform, vigorous, and high yielding offspring. Seed from F1  hybrids does not come true. To produce consistent F1  hybrids, the original cross must be repeated each time, or plants are propagated via cuttings.

F2 hybrids are the second generation plants from self or cross fertilization of F1 hybrids, resulting in a variation on the original F1 cross, producing a new and different plant. There is no particular advantage, it would be another variety to the original."

John Cushnie, in his excellent book 'How to Propagate', states ' The F2  offspring  (of F1 parents) will be variable and mostly below an acceptable standard for quality'.   So how, I wonder, can you get F2 seeds producing flowers all of identical form and colour. I still don't understand!  Like everything in life, the more you look the more complicated it gets.