"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wind That Shakes The Corn

 We've got our paintbrush out and we've been helping the wind pollinate the corn at our house! Corn plants have both male and female parts on the same plant and the plant sex that creates big juicy cobs of corn is all about the pollen getting from the male parts (the tassels, up top) onto the female parts (the silk, at the tip of each potential ear).  In a big field of corn, the wind does the job admirably. In our little backyard patch with only three rows and a hedge around our property to block wind, not to mention neighbors houses and trees and such, we can't be sure the wind will get the pollen in the right spots.
 So, we're helping out a little. Here is Ru, demonstrating what I've been doing with my biggest watercolor wash brush. I snipped several tassels that were shedding pollen and put them in a ziploc and then dipped my brush into the bottom after giving it a few good shakes. The pale yellow dust collected on the hairs of the brush and then I went around giving each tassel a little brushing.
 Some of our tassels are this pretty color, like some of the female parts got all My Little Pony and wanted to make sure everyone knew their gender by wearing all pink. Kind of makes me chuckle.
 And some of our silks are this pale blond color, almost transparent in the sunshine. I am interested to see how the corn kernels relate to the silk color. (If they do) Every single one of those hairs runs down to a specific kernel of corn and if each strand finds a granule of pollen it will develop a juicy bump on the cob...if not it will be a dry blank spot. Trying to hand pollinate our corn makes the whole process seem ridiculously miraculous. I think it will be astounding if I manage to get any full ears out of the process. How can you ever be sure that every single hair has been given pollen? There are so many of them and the pollen is so tiny. It's amazing to me that it ever works with just the wind to do the job.
 We were the only ones after the pollen. Some bees, not our bees as far as I noticed, but a larger variety that werem't honeybees, were collecting too. Bees actively gather pollen in addition to nectar. Pollen has a lot of protein and fat, basically a meat substitute for a vegetarian species...nectar is mainly sugar, which is a good energy source. The bees turn nectar into honey but they just eat the pollen. Fun to see that our corn is making food for us and others, with no extra effort!
corn, plants, garden, pollen, pollination, sex, ear, cob, kernel, bees, grown, summer, gardening, food, sweet corn

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