Monday, July 24, 2006

Squash flowers

My squash (crookneck yellow summer squash) are flowering well, but still only male flowers. No sign of the females.

topic: yellow squash
Cucurbita pepo (summer squash)


Black Eyed Susan said...

male and female flowers? Um, how can you tell?

kathy said...

The females have the squash under them. Males don't. Many squash varieties have only male blossoms for a while, then they have both and need cross-pollination for fruit development. I was just reading that the male blossoms are edible (females too), on salad raw or deep-fried in batter. Maybe I will try this while I wait for the girls.

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem - how long does it take for the female flowers to appear? Is there something I should be doing? When the female flowers do appear how do you pollinate them?

kathy said...

A bit long, but I thought I'd copy this whole article here. I thought it was interesting. (I have LOTS of bees so squash pollination is not one of my problems :)

"Squash, melons, and cucumbers belong to the same family and have a flowering habit unique among the vegetable crops. They bear two kinds of flowers, male
and female, both on the same plant. In order for fruit set to occur, pollen from the male flower must be transferred to the female flower. The pollen is sticky; therefore, wind-blown pollination does not occur. Honeybees are the principal means by which pollen is transferred from the male to the female flower. Farmers who grow these crops place hives of bees In their fields to insure that pollination takes place. Wild honeybees are rare in some urban neighborhoods, and when bees are absent, fruit set is very poor and often non-existent. If only a few bees are present in the area, partial pollination may occur, resulting in misshapen fruit and low yield. When no bees are present the dedicated gardener can pollinate by hand - a tedious chore. The pollen is yellow in color and produced on the structure in the center of the male flower. You can use a
small artists paintbrush to transfer pollen, or you can break off a male flower, remove its petals to expose the pollen-bearing
structure, and roll the pollen onto the stigma in the center of the female flower. When hand-pollinating, it is important to use only freshly opened flowers. Flowers open early in the morning and are receptive for only one day.
The female flower can be recognized easily by the presence of a miniature fruit (ovary) at the base of the flower. The male squash flower can be identified by its long, slender stem. The female squash flower is borne on a very short stem. In melons and cucumbers, male flowers have very short stems and are borne in clusters of three to five, while the females are borne singly on somewhat longer stems. Gardeners often become concerned when many flowers appear early, but fruits fail to set. The reason for this is that all of the early flowers are males. Female flowers develop somewhat later. In hybrid varieties of summer squash, however, the first flowers to appear are usually females, and
these will fail to develop unless there are male squash flowers -- and bees -- in the nearby area."

Christa said...

Great information. I was just asking this very same question on my own blog the other day -- how to crosspollinate squash? This is the first year I'm trying to grow it, so this is all new to me. Thanks for the article and link.