Saturday, July 14, 2007

Squash Blossoms

Is there anything as beautiful as a squash blossom? So big and sunny-yellow and ruffly! Just before I snapped this picture, there was a great big bumble bee dipping inside the female blossom. Yes, there are male and female blossoms on squash and pumpkin plants. This one (above) happens to be a male blossom. He has an elogated knob, a staminate blossom, in the center which produces the pollen to fertilize the female or pistillate blossom (below). Do you see how she has three stigmas that look like "lilliputian boxing gloves?" This is the description that Anna Botsford Comstock gives it, and I frankly can't think of a better one.

There are little openings inside the female pistil where the nectar is stored. The bees must stand on their heads to reach it. The squash plants absolutely depend on the bee to pollinate them or else there will be no squash or pumpkin produced. So you might guess that it is the female blossom that will magically turn into the pumpkin in the end. The male blossom, after he has finished his mission, will close up and die off the vine.

I learned all of this several years ago while doing nature studies with my children using Handbook of Nature Study. It's a wonderful book for discovering "All Things Nature." Best of all, Anna Botsford Comstock really brings science to life with her prose. Think of Beatrix Potter stories and you've got an idea of Comstock's writing style. I'm a budding naturalist thanks, in part, to Miss Comstock.

The expanding of the flower bud is a pretty process; each lobe, supported by a strong midrib, spreads out into one of the points of a five-pointed star; each point is very sharp and angular because, folding in along these edges in one of the prettiest of Nature's hems is the ruffled margin of the flower. Not until the sun has shone upon the star for some little time of a summer morning do these turned-in margins open out; and, late in the afternoon or during a storm, they fold down again neatly before the lobes close up; if a bee is not lively in escaping she may, willy-nilly, get a night's lodging, for these folded edges literally hem her in.

~Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study
"The Pumpkin"


  1. Ohh yuummmm stuff them with ricotta cheese and basil, dip them in an egg batter and fry them. Heaven !!!!! Now I am hungry xoxoxo Clarie

  2. Yum Clarice! A squash blossom would make a nice container for a deep-fried delicacy!

  3. Jody

    If you ever decide you've got enough pumpkins or squash fruit.. and want to do something frugal with those big luscious flowers, consider pumpkin flower soup.
    here's one recipe


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