Pumpkins and Pollinators

This summer we honored a long ago promise to “some day”  plant pumpkins.  The choice: an heirloom variety, known as Red Warty Thing.  It’s actually quite pretty, and is a good eating pumpkin.  That is all we knew about pumpkins at planting time, and we learned that much from the back of the seed packet.  Never let ignorance stand in the way of gardening.  Once the plant began growing, we became rather curious about the blossoms.   They were prolific, but the fruits produced not nearly so.  However, the pumpkin knows exactly what it is doing.  Male flowers appear about a week before the females.  And at a ratio of 10:1.   Male blossoms appear on long thin stems.  Females blossoms on shorter sturdier stems, and these are the flowers that produce fruit.

Pollinators are vital to the pumpkin plants.  Vital.  A female blossom is short lived and open only for a few hours each day.  If not pollinated during those hours, the blossom falls off the plant.  Each female blossom should be visited by a pollinator about fifteen times.  Pollination visits produce seeds which regulate the growth of the fruit.

We look forward to the pumpkin harvest and celebrating the promise made to a young girl, now in graduate school.