Identifying Female Zucchini Flowers
Male and female zucchini flowers have unique visible characteristics that aid in telling them apart. Knowing the visual characteristics of both are needed for proper identification. Some of the male characteristics are:
- Bright colored, usually yellow, petals
- A long stem that has no fruit below its flower petals
- A pollen cover anther (looks like a shortened cotton swab) in the center of flowers
The first flowers to appear on a zucchini plant are the male flowers. Watch for them about six weeks after germination. The female flowers will emerge once the male flowers start producing pollen. Here are visual characteristics of the female flowers:
- Flower petals are the same bright color as the male flowers
- A small fruit grows below the flower petals
- A sticky golden-orange stigma (part of pistil) in the center of the flower
Natural Pollination of Female Zucchini Flowers
In nature, bees and other insects light on the pollen-covered anthers of male flowers. When the bees and insects land on female flowers, their pollen-covered body parts transfer the pollen to the sticky stigma in the center of the female flower. A fruit then begins to grow beneath the female flower petals.
Hand Pollination of Female Zucchini Flowers
In a perfect world, bees and insects perform the act of pollination. Unfortunately, recent declines in bee populations have interfered with the process. Also, temporary interruptions of pollination occur when the weather is cold, rainy, or extremely hot. Hand pollination is an effective technique to replace the natural process and can be performed in these steps:
- Hand pollinate in the early morning when flowers are open and the weather is more humid. Pollen will stick to stigma better in humid weather.
- Cut the male flower stem at least one inch below the flower.
- Hold the male flower by the stem. Expose the pollen-covered male anther by gently removing the petals.
- Gently rub the pollen-covered anther on the female stigma. A soft paint brush can be used to perform this.
Eating Zucchini Flowers
An added bonus to a bountiful harvest of delicious zucchini and edible leaves is its edible flower. For thousands of years, these flowers have been included in the diets of people around the world. The blossoms can be stuffed with cheese and herbs then fried, cooked in soups, or tossed in a salad.