Saturday, October 17, 2009
garden science and a good bowl of popcorn
Jove is always experimenting and often the experiments involve plants and dirt. Last spring, Jove decided to germinate some popcorn seeds from our own stash of popcorn. He has perfected his germination technique, a single layer of seeds is placed in a wet paper towel inside of a covered dish. A few days later, the seeds have sprouted. We transplanted the seedlings out into Jove's garden and cared for them all summer. The corn stalks grew and eventually flowered and each stalk produced one ear of corn. We waited for the ears to dry on the stalk and then Jove harvested them. He shucked the seeds off the ears and we waited for them to firm up a little more. We tried popping them once, but they didn't expand enough. We waited a couple of more weeks and then today we popped a big bowl of Jove's popcorn. He was very excited and it was yummy.
So, in the process of growing corn for the first time I learned quite a bit about how corn plants reproduce that I hadn't really given much thought to before. I will share my discoveries here with you because I am sure you are all dying to know how corn reproduce. Humor me... All fruit bearing plants (each kernel of corn is a fruit) make flowers that have pollen (from the male part) and stigma (the female part) that is sticky and receives the pollen and transports it to the unfertilized egg. In corn, the male pollen bearing flowers on the top of the plant are called the tassel and the silk are the female flowers. The amazing thing that I noticed with our corn was that each silk strand connects to an individual kernel of corn. That means each pollen grain travels down the entire strand of silk to carry its DNA to the unfertilized kernel to allow it to grow into a fertile seed. If you ever see shriveled corn kernels, they would be the unfertilized eggs. Amazing.
Jove learned quite a bit, too. Jove asks a lot of questions related to evolution and my answers often involve discussions of variation within a species. So when our four corn plants are growing, he noticed that the silk on two of them and part of the husk were tinged purple and he says, "Look! Variation." Aha!!