Corn may not have the same style as broccolini or swagger as an eggplant, but its sex life is far from boring. In fact, experts have been blogging about the plant's coital complexities for a while. You see, corn is monoecious, which means there are male-only parts and female-only parts on the same plant. But if the two never meet, you don’t get corn. The problem is the male and female bits are several feet apart. The ‘male’ parts are the tufts you see at the top of the plant that look a bit like wheat. By peeling back the husk, you’ll find the ‘female’ parts - those silky tendrils that cling to the corn (we told you it was sexy).
So, as the silk grows - about 1 ½ inches a day at the beginning - the tufts at the top of the plant start to release pollen. But here’s the catch, the pollen has to land on EACH silky tendril because EACH tendril leads back to a SINGLE kernel of corn. Yeah, every kernel has its own wispy lady-scout ready to catch pollen and bring it back home. The tufts typically release pollen between 9am and 11am, but not if the weather conditions are unfavorable. AND, the silk is only receptive to pollen during the first few weeks of growth. So… it’s basically a miracle that we have corn.
Some experts advise cutting off the male tufts and shaking them over the silky tendrils to make sure the entire ear is fertilized. But where's the fun in that.
Image by Doris Dorfmeister