A couple of week ago we looked at Sepals and Petals – this week I’d like to take a look inside a tomato flower – the male and female parts.
Tomato flowers are self-pollinating because they contain both pollen and an ovary which when pollinated, becomes the tomato.
You may think that because the pollen and ovary are so close to each other, it would be easy, however, that is not always the case.
Last season I had the ambitious idea to grow five Tumbling Tom plants and give them different amounts and types of food in order to note the outcome.
Unfortunately, it took them so long for the flowers to pollinate and set fruit, that my experiment had to be abandoned!
The stamens which includes the anther cone is the male part the produces the pollen.
The female part is the style with the ovary at one end and the stigma (opening) at the other.
The pollen enters the stigma, makes its way down the style and into the ovary which pollinates or fertilizes the ovary and a tomato is born!. Well actually, the ovary swells and becomes the tomato.
Pollination can be encouraged by shaking, tapping and vibrating the plant flowers. Bumble bees are excellent as the vibration from their wings helps move the pollen into the style. However, it can be a frustrating job trying to get flowers to pollinate and sometimes it just won’t happen however hard you try!
Hybrids are made by introducing the pollen of one variety (called the male plant) to the stigma, style and ovary of another variety (called the female plant). Tomato plants are both male and female – or their flowers are!