Monday, June 21, 2010

Mr. and Mrs. Zuc

Two glorious zucchini blossoms opened at the same time on the same plant on the morning of June 14, a week ago today. The male, pollen-bearing flower is on the left; the female, fruiting flower is on the right.

Close as these blooms are to each other, it still takes a bee to seal the deal and make the magic happen. The pollen has to be brought directly to the large pistil at the center of the female flower (the part that looks remarkably like a bright yellow low-energy use light bulb).

The bee, of course, has no interest in being a zucchini fertility clinic worker; it just wants nectar and pollen for its own hive. But the flower-insect co-evolution contract is set up so that mutual benefit accrues to all involved -- including us!

Seven days after their grand opening both blossoms are shriveled little rags, but in their place is the fine young zucchini pictured above, ready to be harvested on the summer solstice.

Just for contrast, here is a photo of an un-pollinated zucchini, eight days after its attached blossom opened on June 13, all by itself with no other blossoms around. I always used to wonder why some zucchini would be so stunted and simply wither on the plant. Now I know you need both Mr. and Mrs. Zuc to get viable offspring.

For the record: Last year the first zucchini harvest was on June 14, so we are running about a week behind. I don't have a planting-out date for this year because all kinds of things got so busy in May but I think the seedlings got put in later than last year's May 10. Of course, the varieties are different as well (Green Racer last year, Green Bush this year) so perhaps meaningful comparisons are not possible. At any rate, another zucchini season has begun. Hooray!

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