Garden seeds at the local hardware storeAs my local hardware store's seed display shows at the right hints, the world of seeds is interesting and diverse. With practice you can learn to identify seeds, and there's nothing quite as much fun and relevant to staying alive on this planet as knowing the art of planting seeds to get new plants.

But, first, what are seeds?

Seeds are matured ovules.

In other words, to know what a seed is, technically you need to understand the basic facts about flowers, as outlined on our Standard Flower page. However, if you just want a definition to tell your dog, you know that a seed is the thing you sow in the ground so that it'll germinate to form a new plant.

Mango pepper cross sectionThe cross section of a mango pepper shown at the right gives us a good introduction to the world of seeds. The whitish, roundish things in the center are immature seeds inside the fruit, which is the red bell pepper surrounding them.


Something important to watch for when you're dealing with seeds is to make sure you don't confuse seeds with fruits. The distinction is simple in the pepper photo, as well as when you bite into the juicy pulp of an apple (a fruit), inside which you find hard, dark, shiny little items (the seeds).

strawberryHowever, as we see in our fruit section, things are not always so simple. Sunflower "seeds" are actually one-seeded fruits, and so are the hard little sand-grain-like things attached to the outside of the strawberry at the left. In that picture you don't see one fruit but rather dozens of them! Well, if you keep in mind that seeds develop from ovules, which reside inside flower pistils, and you watch a strawberry flower develop after it drops its petals, the flower's receptacle enlarging to form the red part of the strawberry, and the flower's many pistils remaining on the surface of the enlarging receptacle and finally maturing into those little yellow seedlike fruits... it would all make perfect sense to you..

Probably you've split open a bean (which is a seed) and looked inside, or you can do so right now. Here are the most interesting parts of a bean to know about:

Bean sproutingsprouting bean