Friday, March 4, 2016

Lagniappe: The Sex Life of Corn

Next time you pull a piece of silk from between your teeth while you're eating a fresh ear of corn, remember that you've just spat our a fallopian tube. Corn has a curious anatomy: the tassel at the top of the plant is the male flower; when mature, it produces two million to five million grains of pollen. The wind picks up those grains and moves them around.

The ear of corn is actually a cluster of female flowers. A young ear contains about a thousand ovules, each of which could become a kernel. Those ovules produce "silks" that run to the tip of the ear. If one of them catches a grain of pollen, the pollen will germinate and produce a tube that runs down the silk to the kernel. There the egg and pollen grain will meet at last. Once fertilized, that egg will swell into a plump kernel, which represents the next generation—or a bottle of bourbon, depending on your perspective.
Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist
Okaaaaay. That next ear of corn is going to feel a little different when I eat it.

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